Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President: Re: Treaties and Laws Applicable to the Conflict in Afghanistan and to the Treatment of Persons Captured by U.S. Armed Forces in that Conflict [November 30, 2001]   [open pdf - 4MB]

"In the course of the current military effort to combat international terrorism, including the present campaign in Afghanistan against the al Qaeda terrorist organization and the Taliban militia, it is foreseeable that U.S. military forces will need to detain foreign nationals in the course of conducting military operations. You have asked for our Office's views on several questions concerning the application of certain treaties, domestic federal law, and customary international law to the armed conflict in Afghanistan. In particular, you have asked about the applicability of the laws of armed conflict to the conduct of the U.S. Armed Forces towards captured members of the al Qaeda terrorist group and of the Taliban militia, which provides the former with sanctuary in Afghanistan. We conclude that these treaties do not protect the al Qaeda organization, which as a non-State actor cannot be a party to the international agreements governing war. We further conclude that the President has reasonable grounds to find that these treaties do not apply to the Taliban militia. This memorandum expresses no view as to whether the President should decide, as a matter of policy, that the U.S. Armed Forces should adhere to the standards of conduct in those treaties in the Afghanistan conflict, particularly with respect to the treatment of prisoners."

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