In the days following the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan, one combatant shocked the United States after his capture on an Afghan battlefield. His birth name was John Walker Lindh and he was fighting for the other side. After being sentenced to twenty years in prison, he’s on his way to being released.
The wounds from the September 11th attacks were still very fresh in America, as a wave of patriotic sentiment swept the country from sea to shining sea. For the first time in a long while, the country was reminded that it could band together during trying times. The pro-American sentiment made it all the more shocking when the United States invaded Afghanistan and found one of their own fighting for the other side, California native John Walker Lindh.
Dubbed the “American Taliban” by the media, Lindh had actually converted to Sunni Islam at age 16 and moved to Yemen to learn Arabic. In 2000 he was trained at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, where he received lectures from Osama bin Laden himself. When the United States invaded in the wake of 9/11, Lindh, named Sulayman al-Faris in Afghanistan, was already fighting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. According to Lindh, he never wanted to be in a position where he would fight the U.S.
Johnny Michael “Mike” Spann spent eight years as a Marine Corps officer before joining the CIA.
Lindh was captured by the Northern Alliance at Kunduz with the rest of his band of Mujahideen and turned over to the CIA for questioning. CIA officer Mike Spann interviewed Lindh because he was identified by one of the other Taliban as an English speaker. He originally claimed to be Irish. But that was the only time Spann would get an opportunity to interrogate Lindh. Later that same day, a planned prisoner uprising killed the CIA officer along with 300 Afghan Northern Alliance fighters, in one of the largest POW camp uprisings ever, now known as the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.
It took the Northern Alliance and U.S. air support, along with both British and American Special Forces six days to quell the uprising. Hundreds died on both sides of the fighting and Lindh was wounded by a bullet to the thigh. From there, Lindh was taken to Camp Rhino, where his wounds were tended and he recovered enough to eventually be sent back to the U.S. to face a grand jury.
Now you know why detainees were shipped in tight controls – because hundreds of people died when the CIA was lenient.
Unlike other combatants, Lindh was never sent to Guantanamo Bay. Instead, he was indicted on ten charges by a federal grand jury. The Bush-era justice department offered a plea if Lindh copped to only two of them: supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. Lindh took the deal and a 20-year sentence. With time off for good behavior, John Walker Lindh will be walking free from the Federal Correction Institution in Terre Haute, Ind. any day now, to finish his last three years on strict probation.