Afghan Biographies

Gulalai, General

Name Gulalai, General
Ethnic backgr. Pashtun
Date of birth 1952
Function/Grade Private Army Militia security Warlord
History and Biodata

2. Previous Functions:
headed up Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) Kandahar in the early 2000s
Head NDS Department 17.

3. Biodata:
General Haji Gulalai, aka General "Slappy" and  Kamal Achakzai was born 1952 in Kandahar Province. Bashir Wasifi attended school with Gulalai in Kandahar in the 1960s before moving to the United States in 1979. Gul Agha Sherzai, a childhood classmate, called Gulalai “the roughest kid in school.” Sherzai, who was a candidate for president of Afghanistan 2014 led the effort to recapture Kandahar in 2001. When he was named governor of the province a year later, he turned to his friend Gulalai to run security and intelligence operations.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Gulalai was among a core group of Pashtuns recruited by the CIA to help the agency and U.S. Special Operations teams seize Kandahar, the city that had been the Taliban’s traditional stronghold. Gulalai had grown up there surrounded by prominent fighters in the CIA-backed effort to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan, many of whom went on to become members of the Taliban or senior officials in Karzai’s government.He was the  Commander 580th Brigade under Mohammed Khan, Commander former 2nd Corps. General Gulalai is a tough, mean, hard man, who seemed to have been fighting someone his entire adult life. Canadian Intelligence worked a lot with him. He was a source of a lot of solid he'd earned the hard way - although he was later fired about human rights abuses. Since early 2006, the Canadian Forces in Kandahar have awarded nine contracts worth more than $340,000 to an entity referred to in government records as "Gulalai" and "General Gulalai." General Gulalai was a southern Afghanistan warlord who also backed President Karzai's efforts win back the Kandahar region from the Taliban. Defence Department disclosures do not detail what Gulalai did for this money, listing only "professional services," "transportation" and "R and D." It was reported reported in November 2007 that the Canadian military had hired a "General Gulalai" to provide security for an undisclosed forward operating base.

A secret memo circulated among unnamed UN officials and Western diplomats in late 2007 which stated Gulalai was responsible for the “systemic” abuse of NDS prisoners. His methods included beating prisoners, suspending them from ceilings, fastening them in handcuffs for long periods and “sleep deprivation for as long as thirteen days” according to the memo. A Kandahar resident who was imprisoned by the NDS for several months in 2002 said he was beaten up every night, and was only released after his family paid 3000 Pakistani rupees. Interrogators called him “a personal detainee of Gulalai,” the man said.

In January 2008 the Canadians awarded a $168,150 contract for “private security guards” General Gulalai. He was the Chief of the Office of Civil Intelligence in the southern military district. Wolesi Jirga Hearing and Complaint Commission during a session on 20100228 proposed to destroy some of the illegally constructed buildings in District 12 that are built by General Gulalai. It was argued that the mentioned land belongs to the government and considered construction work in that area is an illegal act.

Defenders of Gulalai said that his daunting and dangerous job — to secure a province that had served for years as the base of operations for the Taliban and al-Qaeda — required him to be ruthless. Kandahar was a focal point of the war. Senior officials there were frequent targets of assassination attempts, including one of Karzai’s brothers, who was killed. Sherzai, the former Kandahar governor, disputed the allegations about his intelligence chief, saying: “He was a very brave and strong man. I deny that he tortured anyone. He was under my command and I would not have allowed him to do that.”

Despite a substantial record of human rights abuses, Gulalai was able to bypass immigration barriers faced by Afghans whose work for the United States made them potential targets of the Taliban. Many have been turned away because of security objections submitted in secret by U.S. spy agencies. Since its inception, the NDS has depended on the CIA to such an extent that it is almost a subsidiary — funded, trained and equipped by its American counterpart. The two agencies have shared intelligence, collaborated on operations and traded custody of prisoners. Gulalai was considered a particularly effective but corrosive figure in this partnership. He was a fierce adversary of the Taliban, officials said, as well as a symbol of the tactics embraced by the NDS.

By 2005, Gulalai had survived multiple attempts on his life as well as mounting pressure on the government to remove him from his job. A bombing at his family’s residence killed one of his brothers but missed its intended target, said Afghan officials and Gulalai associates. Twice, U.N. officials persuaded then-NDS Chief Amrullah Saleh to issue orders firing Gulalai. Both times, the orders were undone by ethnic politics, U.N. officials said, as Karzai countermanded the Tajik NDS chief to protect his fellow Pashtun tribesman.

Instead of being dismissed, Gulalai was promoted to NDS headquarters in Kabul and put in charge of the agency’s investigations directorate, known at the time as Department 17. The position gave him authority over the main NDS prison in Kabul, to which detainees from across the country were sent for long-term custody.

In March 2007, Gulalai narrowly survived an attack by a suicide bomber near the entrance of a prominent Kabul mosque. An incident report in a  diplomatic file said that “General Gulalai” was among 12 injured in the attack, which also killed at least two civilians.
Gulalai has made several return trips to Afghanistan in recent months to sell property there, family members and associates said. If true, the visits could undermine the argument that Afghanistan had become too dangerous for him, potentially complicating his asylum claim.

Today, Gulalai lives in a pink two-story house in Southern California, on a street of stucco homes on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Gulalai has struggled to adapt. He doesn’t have a job and has learned little English. It is unclear how the family is supporting itself, although friends and relatives said that Gulalai’s sons are employed and that the family owns property in Afghanistan. Gulalai secured permanent resident status in the United States 2013 and is moving toward citizenship. The allegations against him, Wasifi said, should not stand in his way.(20140501)

Last Modified 2014-05-01
Established 2009-10-19