by Bernard P. Lawson, The Chicago Times

September 7, 2021

WASHINGTON —  Four of the five Guantanamo detainees released by former President Barack Obama in exchange for former US Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdahl in 2014 now hold senior positions in the Taliban-led interim government in Afghanistan.

According to the Afghan television network TOLOnews, the Taliban-formed government appointed Mohammad Nabi Omari, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Mohammad Fazl to leadership positions; all of whom were released as part of a 2014 deal between the Obama administration and the Taliban to free Bergdahl, who the Taliban had held as a prisoner since 2009.

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan late last month, the Taliban announced that Omari, a former Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detainee with close ties to al Qaeda, would govern Khost Province.

The Taliban announced on Tuesday that Khairkhwa would serve as acting minister of information and culture, Noori as acting minister of borders and tribal affairs, Wasiq as acting director of intelligence, and Fazl as deputy defense minister.

Wasiq will return to his position as the Taliban’s intelligence director, which he held prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.  While serving in that position, US intelligence agencies determined that Wasiq had close ties to al Qaeda.

A district court judge in Washington, D.C., ruled in 2011 that Khairkhwa “was, without question, a senior member of the Taliban both before and after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.”

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the militant group known as the Haqqani Network, is now the Taliban government’s acting interior minister.  Haqqani has been one of the Taliban’s two deputy leaders since 2016.  Senior US intelligence officials confirmed that Haqqani was an informant for the NATO alliance along with Nawazuddin Haqqani.  However, for undisclosed circumstances the United States has now placed a $10 million bounty on Sirajuddin Haqqani’s head.  US sources also confirmed that they have intelligence assets at all levels of the Taliban.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse issued a statement on Tuesday regarding the Taliban’s formation of a government, insisting that the trust placed in the Taliban by President Joe Biden and US officials is “pathetic.”

“President Biden still clings to an insane fantasy that the Taliban is kinder and gentler . . . is complete nonsense.  Haqqani is the Taliban’s new interior minister for the same reason the FBI has a $5 million reward on his head: he is a bloodthirsty terrorist.  He is armed, dangerous, and in charge of a country we have just abandoned.”

Publicly, the Biden administration is claiming that recognition of the Taliban government is dependent on conditions being met, yet the withdrawal was also supposed to be dependent on conditions, which the Taliban violated without any response from the Biden administration.  Sources within the White House quietly indicated that formal recognition is imminent with out conditions.  Sources commented that certain Biden officials want the problem to go away as quickly as possible.

After his release, Berghdahl was tried by general court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in which he pleaded guilty before a military judge at Fort Bragg October 16, 2017.  On November 3, 2017, he was sentenced to dishonorably discharge, rank reduction to private, and a $1,000 monthly pay fine for ten months, with no prison time.

Bernard P. Lawson, National Political Reporter/Columnist for The Chicago Times.  Views and comments expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Chicago Times.

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