Are the U.S. Detainee Review Boards for suspected Afghan insurgents fair? Ask Mullah Tractor. - The first question was the obvious one. Why are you known as Mullah Tractor? "I read one or two Islamic books, so people call me Mullah. And then I bought a tractor. So I am Mullah Tractor."
Mullah Tractor wore an orange jumpsuit, signaling maximum security. He looked to be about 60 years old, with thin downturned lips, a contoured nose that might once have been broken and a short black-and-white beard.
His real name is Gul Shah Wazir, and he is in U.S. detention in Afghanistan, accused of being a member of the Taliban. But at the U.S. military hearing that I observed in late September, whether he is connected to the insurgency was hard to determine.
This was a Detainee Review Board, a type of hearing taking place in a new detention facility on the edge of Bagram airfield, north of Kabul. Though the site is physically much improved from the old Bagram prison, this is still a long way from a just process. For the hearings to be minimally fair, the detainees should be able to contest the evidence against them and have access to a lawyer. Instead, a detainee faces a three-member U.S. military panel, which tries to determine whether he is an insurgent and whether he would continue to pose a threat if released.
The evidence against Wazir was pretty hazy, judging by the questions from the panel. Did he know the notorious insurgent commander Sirajuddin Haqqani? Wazir said no. Perhaps the U.S. had intelligence leading it to believe that he did. If so, no one told Wazir.