Freed Taliban men were influential commanders
KABUL (Pajhwok): Released in return for the only US captive soldier in Afghanistan from the Guantanamo Bay prison and taken to Qatar on a military plane, the five Taliban detainees were influential commanders during their regime ousted in 2001.
The five Taliban men have each been in prison for at least a decade and are believed still have influence within the movement.
The Taliban in a statement on Saturday announced the release “with great happiness” and said the men would live with their families in Qatar.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday said the US had no right to transfer Afghan prisoners from a foreign jail to another country.
However, the ministry said all restrictions on the movement of the released men should be lifted and they be allowed access to the Afghan Embassy in Doha.
The releases come at a pivotal moment in the Afghan war, with United States concluding its combat mission and the Afghan army preparing to take on the insurgency with far less assistance from the American military.
The Taliban vowed as recently as last week that “jihad is incumbent and our nation will continue its righteous jihad.”
Mullah Khairullah Said Wali Khairkhwa:
Born in 1967 in southern Kandahar province, Khairkhwa was once the Taliban’s interior minister, who helped create the Taliban movement in 1994. He was also the governor of northern Balkh and then western Herat provinces during the Taliban regime.
Khairkhwa was detained by US forces and subsequently shifted to Guantanamo prison in 2002.
Mullah Mohammad Fazl
Now 46-year-old, Fazl was born in central Uruzgan province and was a senior commander in the Taliban army in the 1990s, rising to become its chief. He was deputy defence minister and then general commander in the western zone.
He was detained in northern Kunduz province in 2001 and then shifted to Guantanamo prison on Jan 11, 2002.
Mullah Norullah Noori
Noori, 74, was born in southern Zabul province. He was the governor for eastern Laghman, northern Baghlan and northern Balkh provinces during the Taliban rule.
He was detained in 2001 and then transferred to Guantanamo prison on Jan 11, 2002.
Abdul Haq Wasiq
Wasiq, 45, was deputy chief of intelligence for the Taliban. He was born in southern Ghazni province. He was detained in 2001 and then shifted to Guantanamo prison on Jan 11, 2002. According to his Guantanamo case file, Wasiq “utilized his office to support Al Qaeda” and was “central to the Taliban’s effort to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups.”
His case file, like Khairkhwa’s, calls him a “high risk,” saying that he is likely to “pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
Mohammad Nabi Omari
Omari, 46, was born in southeastern Khost province. He was a senior military official during the Taliban regime. Omari was shifted to Guantanamo prison in October 2002.
According to his case file, he is “one of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained” at Guantanamo. He has ties to the Haqqani network, the group that was believed to be holding Bergdahl.
With an eye toward reconciliation, the Afghan government had long supported the idea of a prisoner release from Guantanamo. In 2011, President Hamid Karzai said of Khairkhwa, “We would talk to him, we would arrange his release.”
In 2012, Karzai said he sent a delegation of Afghan officials to Guantanamo, where they interviewed Afghan prisoners. He then became more strident in his demands, asking for the release of all Afghans held at the detention facility.
“We want the release of those Taliban figures, and we want them to have the freedom to settle where they want,” he said.
The Afghan government has released several Taliban detainees from the Bagram Jail, but the recent prisoner swap wasn’t attached to broad reconciliation efforts.
After Saturday’s release, 12 Afghans remain at Guantanamo. Within hours of the White House’s statement about Bergdahl’s release, members of Congress began raising concerns about the detainees.
“These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands,” Sen. John McCain said in a statement.
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