A former Guantanamo detainee “was identified as an Iraqi intelligence officer who relocated to Afghanistan (AF) in 1998 where he served as a senior Taliban Intelligence Directorate officer in Mazar-E-Sharif,” according to a recently leaked assessment written by American intelligence analysts. The former detainee, an Iraqi named Jawad Jabber Sadkhan, “admittedly forged official documents and reportedly provided liaison between the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Sadkhan’s al Qaeda ties reached all the way to Osama bin Laden, according to the intelligence assessment. He reportedly received money from Osama bin Laden both before and after the September 11 attacks.
Identification by senior al Qaeda member
In Afghanistan, Sadkhan served under another Iraqi al Qaeda member: Abdul Hadi al Iraqi. According to the Gitmo analysts’ assessment, al Iraqi “identified [Sadkhan] in a letter as an Iraqi intelligence officer who relocated to Afghanistan where he was associated with Taliban and al-Qaida leadership.”
Abdul Hadi al Iraqi’s identification of Sadkhan is especially important. Al Iraqi was a major in Saddam Hussein’s military before relocating to Afghanistan, where he became one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants in the 1990s. Al Iraqi led al Qaeda’s elite Arab 055 Brigade, which fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In addition to being a top al Qaeda and Taliban military commander, al Iraqi was also involved in al Qaeda’s international operations. For example, al Iraqi met with two of the July 7, 2005 London bombers in northern Pakistan. Although the two had volunteered to fight against coalition forces in Afghanistan or Iraq, al Iraqi recognized their potential for committing attacks in the West and repurposed them for the 7/7 operation.
Thus, Sadkhan’s relationship with al Iraqi deserves closer scrutiny.
Abdul Hadi al Iraqi’s identification of Sadkhan came in a letter that al Iraqi wrote in November 1998. The letter was addressed to another senior al Qaeda leader, Saif al Adel, who sits on al Qaeda’s military committee. In the letter, al Iraqi identified Sadkhan by one of his aliases, Mullah Abdullah, and said that Sadkhan was “a former Iraqi intelligence officer or warrant officer” who was employed as an interrogator by the Taliban’s intelligence directorate.
The letter indicates that both al Iraqi and Saif al Adel “were personally acquainted with” Sadkhan and that Sadkhan “was part of a group of Iraqis that were involved in un-Islamic activities.”
The leaked intelligence assessment does not identify what “un-Islamic activities” Sadkhan was involved in, but it may have included his ruthless efforts to recruit fighters for the Taliban’s cause.
Sadkhan “coerced immigrants into service upon threat of imprisonment and torture,” according to the U.S. government’s reporting, and also “employed a team of interrogators who beat and tortured Shiite and Uzbeki prisoners.” According to some reports, Sadkhan’s fighting group also indiscriminately killed Afghan women and children. American analysts concluded that Sadkhan was involved in the Taliban’s narcotics trade, as well.
Whatever Sadkhan’s “un-Islamic activities” were, it did not stop al Qaeda’s senior members from working with him. Abdul Hadi al Iraqi’s driver identified Sadkhan as one of his boss’s “close associates.”
In addition, an unnamed “senior Afghan military officer” identified Sadkhan as one of “several commanders of al Qaeda and Chechen forces in the Mazar-e-Sharif area prior to the November 2001 fall of Mazar-e-Sharif to US and Coalition forces.” A Gitmo analyst noted that the Afghan officer’s report indicated that Sadkhan had a “commanding role with al Qaeda and militant forces” in late 2001. Other sources confirmed that Sadkhan continued to serve in the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s ranks.
Sadkhan’s relationship with Saddam’s regime did not end either, according to the Gitmo files. Although Sadkhan claimed to have fled Iraq in 1997, he allegedly continued to work with Saddam’s regime.
“Conduits” to Saddam’s regime
At least three Guantanamo detainees identified Sadkhan as a henchman for Saddam Hussein.
An Uzbek named Oybek Jamoldinivich Jabbarov, told authorities that Sadkhan “admitted working as a liaison between [the] Taliban Intelligence Directorate and Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.” Jabbarov explained that Sadkhan and another Iraqi once held at Guantanamo, Hassan Abdul Said, “traveled between Iraq and Afghanistan ferrying unidentified supplies from Iraq through Iran on multiple occasions.” Sadkhan “would receive money from the Taliban in exchange for these supplies.”
Another Iraqi Gitmo detainee named Abbas Habid Rumi al Naely told military officials that Sadkhan “was a member of the Amin Emergency Response Group while living in Iraq.” According to Naely, the Amin Group was “an elite Iraqi intelligence squad responsible for locating and either torturing or killing people opposed to Iraqi President, [sic] Saddam Hussein.” In a memo prepared for Naely’s combatant status review tribunal, military authorities alleged that he, too, was a connection between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda. Officials accused Naely of plotting attacks on behalf of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, along with a member of the Iraqi intelligence service, in August 1998. Naely, who was allegedly recruited by the Taliban in Baghdad in 1994, and the IIS man were supposedly targeting the American and British embassies in Pakistan. That same month, of course, al Qaeda launched devastating attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. That allegation was dropped from subsequent memos prepared for Naely’s case, but it is not clear why.
Still another Iraqi once held at Guantanamo, Haydar Jabbar Hafez al Tamimi, identified Sadkhan “as a former member of the Iraqi Interior Ministry security forces” who fought in the Iraq-Iran war. Tamimi described Sadkhan as a relentless mercenary who used heavy-handed tactics to recruit fighters.
Money from Osama
Sadkhan’s fellow Iraqi, Hassan Abdul Said, told U.S. authorities that Sadkhan received two payments from Osama bin Laden. The first came around September, 2001 and totaled approximately $11,000. Bin Laden transferred another $100,000 to Sadkhan in October 2001.
Al Wafa, an NGO that was really a cover for al Qaeda’s operations, facilitated both transfers. Al Wafa has been designated a terrorist front by both the United Nations and U.S. Treasury Department.
The payments were especially suspicious. Sadkhan conceded that a meeting took place on September 1, 2001, but claimed that bin Laden gave the money as a gift for local construction projects.
U.S. intelligence analysts did not buy that story – pointing out that the total amount transferred far exceeded what was necessary for small-time construction projects like building a well. The analysts concluded that the second transfer of $100,000 may very well have been intended to buy Sadkhan’s freedom.
The Northern Alliance reportedly sent forces to capture Sadkhan in late 2001. A Gitmo analyst noted “the timing, amount of money, and the people involved in the October 2001 money transfer suggest that the money was possibly transferred to pay a bribe for [Sadkhan’s] release from Northern Alliance custody.” If that is the case, this same analyst astutely noted, then it indicates the “high value that both [Osama bin Laden] and the Northern Alliance placed on [Sadkhan].”
If Osama’s money was a bribe, it didn’t work. The Northern Alliance transferred Sadkhan to American custody.
A “High Risk” detainee
According to current and former military officials contacted by THE WEEKLY STANDARD, other detainees at Gitmo were afraid of Sadkhan. His track record as a sadistic Taliban and al Qaeda interrogator was well-known. Sadkhan’s ties to the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda, however, never gained any publicity.
Contrary to popular anti-war mythology, these officials say, there was no push inside the Bush administration to find out more about Sadkhan’s ties to both al Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq. In fact, the Bush administration never made any public reference to the intelligence it was accumulating on Sadkhan’s activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The same is true for several other Iraqi detainees once held at Gitmo. Hassan Abdul Said and Abbas Habid Rumi al Naely were also once accused of being living connections between Saddam’s fallen regime and al Qaeda. Their stories never gained traction either.
Instead, Sadkhan, Said, and Naely were all transferred to their home country in 2009. Said and Naely were transferred by the Bush administration in January 2009.
Sadkhan was transferred to Iraq in June 2009 by the Obama administration despite the military’s assessment in 2008 that he was a “high risk” detainee who “is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.