‘American Taliban’ will be free after 17 years. Is the U.S. ready to welcome him back?

John Walker Lindh’s eyes, dark and wild, were ubiquitous across magazine covers and cable news channels, alongside militants in Afghanistan, after he was captured in November 2001. He was a long-haired guerrilla with a California address — a traitor to some, a misguided kid sucked into Islamic jihad to others.

Dubbed the “American Taliban,” Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to supporting militants who harbored al-Qaeda as it planned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But in a surprise move, Lindh will be released from federal prison on Thursday, three years early.

Lindh and other incarcerated American supporters of the Islamic State present a quandary with growing urgency: Is the United States prepared to try to rehabilitate extremists and foreign fighters, and welcome them back into society?