'Taliban Five' go from Guantanamo Bay to new Afghan government

'Taliban Five' go from Guantanamo Bay to new Afghan government
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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Four of the so-called “Taliban Five” have been named to key roles in the Taliban’s new “caretaker” government in Afghanistan following the terrorist group’s takeover of the country after the militant leaders were released from detention at Guantanamo Bay in a prisoner exchange for U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan in August after an ill-planned and chaotic Biden administration withdrawal.

A Taliban spokesman said the group had appointed Mullah Noorullah Noori to be the acting minister of borders and tribal affairs, Abdul Haq Wasiq to be the acting director of intelligence, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa to be the acting minister of information and broadcasting, and Mullah Mohammad Fazil to be the deputy defense minister. The fifth of the five, Mohammad Nabi Omari, was reportedly appointed to be the governor of Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan last month.

The five men had been members of the Taliban government prior to its overthrow by U.S. forces in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Before being sent to Guantanamo Bay, Noori was a Taliban governor and is believed to have been involved in the massacres of thousands of Hazara, Uzbek, and other Shiite minorities. Wasiq was a member of the Taliban’s intelligence services and worked with outside terrorist organizations. Khairkhwa helped found the Taliban, worked with terrorist groups, and was close to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden. Fazil was a high-ranking official in the Taliban military and also engaged in large-scale ethno-sectarian killing. Omari was accused of having connections to al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and other terrorist groups.

By early 2019, members of the Taliban Five appeared across the negotiating table from U.S. diplomats in what was seen as a slap in the face.

9/11 MASTERMIND SMILES AND WAVES IN RETURN TO GITMO COURTROOM

The Taliban also reportedly named Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a longtime ally of Omar, to serve as the country’s new acting prime minister. Akhund, who was the Taliban’s foreign minister before the U.S. invasion in 2001, told the United Nations in 1999 that “we will never give up Osama at any price.”

Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban with Mullah Omar, was appointed to be Akhund’s deputy, along with deputy Abdul Salam Hanafi, a former negotiator for the group in Qatar. Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar, was freed from Pakistan in 2018 and is the most prominent of thousands of Taliban prisoners freed at America’s request in its efforts to promote failed peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The February 2020 agreement in Doha, signed by the United States and Baradar, called for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and up to 1,000 prisoners held by the Taliban. The so-called peace agreement also said the U.S. “committed to withdraw from Afghanistan all military forces” within 14 months, while the Taliban said they would take "steps to prevent any group or individual, including al Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

The Haqqani network also received key top positions, with leader Sirajuddin Haqqani picked to be the Taliban’s acting interior minister, while Sirajuddin’s uncle, Khalil Haqqani, was named the acting minister for refugees. Sirajuddin, the “deputy emir” of the Taliban, has been designated a terrorist by the U.S., and the State Department’s Reward for Justice program has offered $10 million for his arrest.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani was also picked to be the acting minister of higher education, while Najibullah Haqqani will be the acting minister of telecommunication.

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Trump said at a 2015 campaign rally, “So we get Bergdahl, a traitor, and they get five of the people that they most wanted anywhere in the world, five killers that are right now back on the battlefield doing the job.” A few years later, those killers were sitting across from the Trump administration diplomats at the negotiating table.

Bergdahl, a former Army sergeant, walked away from his battalion outpost in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009 and was soon captured by the Haqqanis and then the Taliban and held captive for five years. The Obama administration's Gitmo prisoner swap decision, celebrated by the former president in the Rose Garden, was opposed by many at the Pentagon and was strongly criticized by Republicans. Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior charges.

An Army investigation did not find that any U.S. soldiers were killed during the search for Bergdahl, though it found that numerous soldiers suffered injuries during the search, some of them very seriously, including National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Allen, whose unit was ambushed when gathering information about Bergdahl in Afghan villages in the summer of 2009. Allen was shot in the head, was permanently severely disabled, and died in 2019.

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Tags: News, National Security, Guantanamo Bay, 9/11, Taliban, Taliban Five, Bowe Bergdahl, Foreign Policy

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: 'Taliban Five' go from Guantanamo Bay to new Afghan government

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