Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Exchanged For top 5 Taliban Commanders At Gitmo – Long War Journal
The US government announced today that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban since 2009, has been released. Bergdahl was exchanged for the top five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo. The Taliban detainees are reportedly being transferred to Qatar, which helped broker the deal.
The Taliban has long sought freedom for the “Gitmo Five,” all of whom are experienced jihadists and helped run the Taliban’s operations in pre-9/11 Afghanistan. They served in various military and intelligence roles.
All five of the detainees were deemed “high” risks to the US and its allies by Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). Two of the five, according to files prepared at Guantanamo, have been wanted by the UN for war crimes.
One of them served as a key intermediary between the Iranian regime and the Taliban after 9/11. During meetings between these two former foes, the Iranians pledged to assist the Taliban in its war against the US.
The Obama administration has long sought to coax the Taliban into meaningful peace talks, which have thus far been fruitless. The Taliban has demanded that the “Gitmo Five” be released before those talks move forward.
A key goal of those talks is to get the Taliban to renounce al Qaeda, something Mullah Omar’s group has declined to do. It is difficult to see how the prisoner swap helps to achieve that goal. All five of the now ex-Gitmo detainees were closely allied with al Qaeda prior to their detention. And Bergdahl was initially captured by members of the Haqqani Network, which remains one of al Qaeda’s strongest allies to this day.
The Long War Journal has published extensive profiles of the five former Guantanamo detainees previously. See LWJ reports: Iran and the Taliban, allies against America; Afghan peace council reportedly seeks talks with Taliban commanders held at Gitmo; DC district court denies former Taliban governor’s habeas petition; Taliban seek freedom for dangerous Guantanamo detainees; and Afghan Taliban announces new ‘political office’ in Qatar.
The profiles below, which are based on declassified and leaked documents, are culled from these previous accounts.
Abdul Haq Wasiq (Internment Serial Number 4), senior Taliban intelligence official
Abdul Haq Wasiq, a former Taliban intelligence official, “had direct access to Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) leadership,” according to a leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment. Wasiq “was central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against US and Coalition forces after the 11 September 2001 attacks.”
JTF-GTMO concluded that Wasiq “utilized his office to support al Qaeda and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture” in late 2001. Wasiq also “arranged for al Qaeda personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods.”
Al Qaeda’s training of Taliban operatives, arranged by Wasiq, was reportedly conducted by Hamza Zubayr, a terrorist who was formerly an instructor at one of al Qaeda’s most important training camps. Zubayr was killed during the same September 2002 raid that netted 9/11 facilitator Ramzi Binalshibh. The assistance from Zubayr was crucially important to the Taliban’s intelligence efforts, according to the JTF-GTMO file, because many of the administrators in the Taliban Ministry of Intelligence “had no prior intelligence background.”
Mullah Norullah Noori (ISN 6), senior Taliban military commander
Another leaked JTF-GTMO file described Noori as a “senior Taliban military commander” who was engaged in hostilities “against US and Coalition forces in late 2001.” Noori is “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims.”
When the JTF-GTMO threat assessment for Noori was authored in February 2008, his brother was still active in the fight against the Coalition. Noori’s “brother is a Taliban commander directing operations against US and Coalition forces in Zabul Province.” Noori himself “remained a significant figure to Taliban supporters” even after his capture.
In addition to his ties to Mullah Omar and other senior Taliban leaders, Noori was “associated with…senior al Qaeda members and other extremist organizations.”
Declassified memos authored at Guantanamo provide more details about Noori’s al Qaeda ties. Noori “fought alongside al Qaeda as a Taliban military general, against the Northern Alliance” in September 1995. Noori also “hosted al Qaeda commanders” and “met a subordinate of Osama bin Laden to pass a message from the Taliban supreme leader” – that is, a message from Mullah Omar.
Mullah Mohammad Fazl (ISN 7), Taliban deputy minister of defense
Mullah Mohammad Fazl was one of the Taliban’s most experienced commanders prior to his capture in November 2001. Like Noori, according to another leaked JTF-GTMO file, Fazl is “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites.” Fazl “was associated with terrorist groups currently opposing U.S. and Coalition forces including al Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), and an Anti-Coalition Militia group known as Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami.”
Fazl had “operational associations with significant al Qaeda and other extremist personnel,” according to JTF-GTMO. One of the high-ranking al Qaeda commanders Fazl long cooperated with was Abdel Hadi al Iraqi, who led Osama bin Laden’s Arab 055 Brigade in the Taliban’s Afghanistan. The 055 Brigade was bin Laden’s chief fighting force and served alongside Taliban units.
Immediately “following the assassination of Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud in September 2001,” al Iraqi explained to US officials, “the Northern Alliance was demoralized” and he met with Fazl to “coordinate an attack with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.”
Prior to his detention, Fazl “wielded considerable influence throughout the northern region of Afghanistan and his influence continued after his capture.” Fazl’s “name and capture have been used in recruiting campaigns by the Taliban.”
“If released,” JTF-GTMO warned in a February 2008 memo, Fazl “would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with [Anti-Coalition Militia] elements participating in hostilities against U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa (ISN 579), former governor of Herat province
Khairkhwa was one of Mullah Omar’s closest confidantes prior to his capture. According to a JTF-GTMO file, Khairkhwa “was directly associated” with both Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. “Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks,” the leaked JTF-GTMO file reads, Khairkhwa “represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support hostilities against US and Coalition Forces.” In June 2011, a DC district court denied Khairkhwa’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, based in large part on his admitted role in brokering the Taliban’s post-9/11 deal with the Iranians. [See LWJ report, DC district court denies former Taliban governor’s habeas petition.]
As the governor of Afghanistan’s western Herat province, Khairkhwa and “his deputy were probably associated with a militant training camp in Herat operated by deceased al Qaeda commander (in Iraq) Abu Musab al Zarqawi.”
In declassified memos prepared at Guantanamo, US officials alleged that Khairkhwa became a major drug trafficker as well. Khairkhwa reportedly built three walled compounds that he used to manage his opium trade. And he allegedly oversaw one of Osama bin Laden’s training facilities in Herat, too. One US government memo noted that only Khairkhwa or bin Laden himself “could authorize entrance” to the facility, which was one of bin Laden’s “most important bases” and “conducted terrorist training two times per week.”
Mohammad Nabi Omari (ISN 832), senior Taliban leader who served multiple roles
In a leaked memo dated Jan. 23, 2008, JTF-GTMO analysts recommended that Nabi be held in “continued detention” by the Defense Department. Nabi “was a senior Taliban official who served in multiple leadership roles,” according to JTF-GTMO. Nabi “had strong operational ties to Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) groups including al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), some of whom remain active in ACM activities.”
Intelligence reports cited by JTF-GTMO indicate that Nabi was a “member of a joint al Qaeda/Taliban ACM cell in Khowst and was involved in attacks against US and Coalition forces.” Nabi also “maintained weapons caches and facilitated the smuggling of fighters and weapons.”
Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Nabi worked for the Taliban’s border security and in this capacity had “access to senior Taliban commander and leader of the Haqqani Network, Jalaluddin Haqqani.” Haqqani was the Taliban Minister of Frontiers and Borders at the time and this is what gave Nabi the opportunity to become Haqqani’s “close associate,” according to JTF-GTMO.
One “sensitive contact” told authorities that Nabi was one of “three former Taliban commanders loyal to Haqqani.” The other two are Nabi’s brother-in-law, Malim Jan, and Gul Majid. The three worked under still another Taliban commander, Zakim Khan.
Malim Jan was nicknamed the “Butcher of Khowst” for his reported role in murdering 300 people there. Jan was a sub-commander under Haqqani and the head of a “Secret Police” unit.
Intelligence reports cited by JTF-GTMO indicate that Malim Jan, Gul Majid, and Zakim Khan were all still active in the insurgency in Afghanistan as of late 2007.
A “sensitive contact” told authorities that Nabi participated in a Jan. 26, 2002 “planning session to identify a new Governor of Khowst and to propose a list of members for the Khowst City Shura Council loyal to Haqqani.” Several other high-level Taliban and Haqqani officials attended the meeting. One of them “directed the group to reconvene after members discussed names with al Qaeda members in their provinces.” The leaked JTF-GTMO memo notes: “The plan was to have all personnel identified and vetted to prepare for future al Qaeda control of the area under Jalaluddin Haqqani.”
Beginning in February 2002, according to another intelligence report cited by JTF-GTMO, Nabi and “three al Qaeda affiliated individuals held weekly meetings to discuss ACM plans and to coordinate Haqqani loyalists.”
Then, in July 2002, an “Afghan government employee” reported that Nabi had joined “a new Khowst province ACM cell comprised of Taliban and al Qaeda commanders who had operated independently in the past.” The list of cell members provided by this source included not only Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, but also individuals affiliated with the HIG and the Haqqani Network.
The JTF-GTMO file includes an intriguing detail about one member of Nabi’s cell – a Haqqani money courier named Malik Khan. “Ayman al Zawahiri, the number two leader of al Qaeda” at the time, and now al Qaeda’s emir, “has stayed at Khan’s compound located outside Miram Shah,” Pakistan.
In August 2002, Nabi reportedly helped two al Qaeda operatives smuggle “an unknown number of missiles along the highway between Jalalabad and Peshawar,” Pakistan. The missiles were smuggled in pieces, with the intent of rebuilding them for attacks near the Jalalabad airport. On Aug. 28, 2002, JTF-GTMO analysts noted, “two Americans were killed during attacks against the Khowst, Gardez, and Jalalabad airports.”
Nabi was captured in September 2002, detained at Bagram, and then transferred to Guantanamo. It was the end, temporarily at least, to a career that started in the 1980s when Nabi first fought as a mujahideen against the Soviets.
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GOP Lawmakers: Obama Broke The Law With Taliban Prisoner Swap – Business Insider
Two Republican lawmakers on Saturday accused President Barack Obama of breaking the law by approving the release of five Afghan detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for a U.S. soldier believed held by Islamist insurgents for five years.
The White House agreed that actions were taken in spite of legal requirements and cited “unique and exigent circumstances” as justification.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, of Hailey, Idaho, was handed over to U.S. special operations forces by the Taliban. In return, five Afghans who were held at a U.S. detention facility in Cuba were released to the custody of the government of Qatar, which served as a go-between in negotiations for the trade.
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said in a statement that Obama is required by law to notify Congress 30 days before any terrorists are transferred from the U.S. facility. They said Obama also is required to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated.
McKeon is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Inhofe is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In response, the White House said it moved as quickly as possible given the opportunity that arose to secure Bergdahl’s release. Citing “these unique and exigent circumstances,” the White House said a decision was made to go ahead with the transfer despite the legal requirement of 30 days advance notice to Congress.
While saying they celebrate Bergdahl’s release, McKeon and Inhofe warned that the exchange “may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans.”
“Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” they said.
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American Soldier Who Served With Freed POW Casts Doubt On Official Story; Fears Reprisal From Obama Administration – Independent Journal Review
Early Saturday it was announced by the administration that the only American prisoner of war in Afghanistan was released in exchange for 5 Guantanamo Bay terrorists being set free to Qatar. [Explicit language below.]
The circumstances of the capture of Bowe Bergdahl had been in question long before his release – supposedly he had wandered off and captured by the Taliban.
But a soldier on Twitter is claiming that the official story is untrue, and has posted his version of the events that led to Bowe’s capture as I originally posted on my blog.
Towards the end of his story, he says he fears reprisal from the Obama administration, and asks for legal help. It must be noted also that he has a avatar that bears a picture of Bowe with the word “traitor” posted over it.
After stating that “F[***] what you heard. I was there.,” HERE are the tweets telling his version of the story so far.
Cody seems to come under attack from people threatening to make him suffer for simply putting out his view of what happened. We do not have independent corroboration of his serving with Bergdahl, but many others have questioned the official story before Cody.
It should also be alarming to Americans that Bergdah’s dad seems to have deleted a tweet in sympathy with the Taliban. So what’s the real story here?
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Flashback: A reminder About Bowe Bergdahl’s Desertion Problem – Michelle Malkin
While many people jumped aboard the Bowe Bergdahl bandwagon, I was not one of them. His release today in exchange for five Taliban commanders who had been in custody at Gitmo underscores troubling questions that have persisted since his alleged abduction.
Longtime readers will recall questions raised here about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance. Here’s a flashback from my July 20, 2009 blog post:
My prayers are with the family of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier seen on the Taliban abduction video released this weekend. The Jawa Report has the full clip.
All Americans should hope and pray for his release from jihadi custody.
There’s one question I have, though, about strange details initially reported on the case – details which have been deleted from later wire dispatches. Read:
The circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture weren’t clear.
On July 2, two U.S. officials told the AP the soldier had “just walked off” his base with three Afghans after his shift. He had no body armor or weapon and they said they had no explanation for why he left. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
On July 6, the Taliban claimed on their Web site that five days earlier “a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison” and was captured by mujahadeen.
In the video, Pfc. Bergdahl said he was lagging behind a patrol when he was captured.
Details of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military as it works to retrieve a missing or captured soldier without giving away any information to captors.
The question is: Which account is accurate?
The first account strongly suggests desertion, a la Wassef Ali Hassoun.
The second account might provide an explanation for why Pfc. Bergdahl had no armor or weapon on him when captured.
The third account is totally at odds with the other two.
Were the AP’s sources mistaken?
Did the AP botch the reporting?
Or is the disturbing first account the right one? Knowing, as the AP pointed out, that “[d]etails of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military,” wouldn’t the two U.S. officials have been extremely careful in passing on such sensitive details to the media on July 2?
And what about the “three Afghans” that Pfc. Bergdahl reportedly “just walked off” with after his shift?
Who are they?
Did they have security clearances at the base?
Did any or all of them work as translators?
Are they still missing?
Did one of them serve as the English-speaking questioner on the Taliban video?
Is anyone else puzzled by the completely conflicting stories? Will the Associated Press explain them?
What’s going on?
More strangeness via the Oregonian blog:
Kim Harrison Dellacorva, who moved from Idaho last fall and lives in the Pearl District of Northwest Portland…is listed on military documents as Bergdahl’s godmother. She ran the extracurricular performing arts school in Ketchum that Bergdahl attended.
A military casualty assistance officer knocked on Dellacorva’s door June 30, after Bergdahl was reporting missing from his company’s outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika province. At the time, nobody knew where he was or what happened to him. The military declined to release his name to the public, although his disappearance was an open secret in Hailey, the Idaho town near Ketchum where Bergdahl’s parents live in a remote canyon.
But over the weekend, his Taliban captors posted a 28-minute video that shows Bergdahl answering questions and eating.
Kim, Shane and Shane’s sister, Kayla Harrison, were relieved to see that Bergdahl is alive. But they say that parts of the video they have seen don’t sound like the Bowe they know.
“The only part that sounded like Bowe was when he said, ‘It’s very unnerving to be a prisoner,’” Kayla Harrison said.
A lot of the other stuff, about relatives and having a girlfriend back home he hoped to marry, sounded completely unnatural, the Harrisons say. Bergdahl doesn’t have a serious girlfriend, they say.
This is an indisputable truth:
“The Taliban are using the soldier for propaganda purposes,” said Navy Lt. Robert Carr, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Partial transcript of Bergdahl video:
“Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here wasting our time and our lives and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country.”
“Please bring us home. It is America and the American people that have that power.”
Update: Lt. Col. Ralph Peters had tough words about Pfc. Bergdahl’s reported desertion yesterday and has a warning for the media:
PETERS: On that video, he is collaborating with the enemy. Under duress or not, that’s really not relevant. He’s making accusations about the behavior of the military in Afghanistan that are unfounded, saying there are no rules. He’s lying about how he was captured, saying he lagged behind a patrol.
Julie, I’ll tell you, any 11 Bravo infantryman will tell you, that’s not how it works. In a war zone, any soldier is aware of where all his buddies are. If it’s a night patrol, you’re sure of where the guy in front of you and behind you is. So we know this private is a liar. We’re not sure if he’s a deserter. But the media needs to hit the pause button and NOT portray this guy as a hero…
Received from a USARPAC soldier this morning:
“Please don’t list my name – I am here in Afghanistan– I know the story and the accounts that he was drunk or that he was lagging behind on patrol are not true– this soldier planned this move for a long time. He walked off the post with a day’s supply of water and had written down before that he wanted to live in the mountains. He has violated the Code of Conduct in his 28 minute speech and he is an e[m]barrassment to everyone who has worn the uniform. He made it to two towns and was asking for water when the locals turned him over to the Taliban. That is really all I can say– since we are still looking for this soldier.”
And from P.J. Tobia:
I’ve been reporting for over a week (along with the AP and WaPo) that Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who’s gone missing in eastern Afghanistan, walked off the base on his own accord.
Now, somebody close to the people searching for Bergdahl has repeated this assertion saying that the soldier left “a note behind that said he was going to the mountains to find himself. He took a journal and 4 or 5 knives with him.” My source tells me that Bergdahl arrived at a village and asked if anybody spoke English. That’s when he was captured.
My source tells me that there is no doubt Bergdahl deserted, which in a time of war is punishable by a court martial at the least, or even execution.
More: Is Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a hero or a deserter?
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‘God Will Repay’: Did Sgt. Bergdahl’s Dad Delete Disturbing Tweet About Fight To Free Gitmo Prisoners? – The Blaze
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, believed to have been in Taliban captivity since 2009, was released Saturday in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees.
But the tale seems to be far from a cut-and-dried story of Americans refusing to leave one of their own behind.
A tweet sent earlier this week from an account that appears to be that of Bergdahl’s father said he was “still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners.”
The tweet has since been deleted.
The Twitter account is not verified, but the account’s activity level is high and contains numerous tweets about Afghanistan, POWs and Islam.
The tweets are just the latest elements in the mix of uncertain details surrounding Bergdahl’s release.
President Barack Obama violated the law, high-ranking Republicans are saying, because he failed to notify Congress 30 days ahead of the prisoner exchange.
The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s captivity are strange, as the soldier had sent his parents emails shortly before he went missing saying how he was disillusioned with the war and “ashamed to even be an American.”
Bergdahl was listed first as “duty status unknown” when he went missing, and debate continues over whether he was truly captured or whether he may have deserted.
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Another Disastrous Susan Rice Interview: Obama Did Not Negotiate With Terrorists for Bergdahl’s Release – Gateway Pundit
Another disastrous interview by dunce Susan Rice -
When asked this morning on CNN’s State of the Union if the US negotiated with terrorists for the release of Sgt. Bowe Berdahl, Susan Rice would not answer.
When asked point blank she replied, “I wouldn’t put it that way.”
Rice went on to say the Obama administration was actually negotiating with the government of Qatar… Not the Taliban.
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Taliban Gloats Over Jihad Victory – Daily Caller
Taliban leaders claimed a jihadi victory following President Barack Obama’s decision to release five of their top leaders held at Guantanamo Bay, in exchange for one U.S soldier who walked off his base in 2009.
The five leaders were “released due to the benevolence of Allah Almighty and the sacrifices of the heroic and courageous Mujahidin of the Islamic Emirate,” which is formal name of the Taliban’s movement, said the June 1 statement.
Obama described the trade as a “recovery” of the U.S. soldier. But the Taliban’s press release described it as a trade.
“To get the preceding five heads released, it is worth mentioning that the Islamic Emirate handed over the American soldier to the US government who was captive with us approximately for the last five years,” read the statement.
On May 30, the Taliban promised to continue its jihad until all U.S. forces are out of Afghanistan.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has explicitly manifested its stance on behalf of its pious masses about the US occupation i.e. even the presence of a single American soldier inside Afghanistan is unacceptable for our nation and masses,” the statement continued.
“Jihad is obligatory against them and our people will continue their legitimate resistance and Jihad against them,” it added.
The Taliban also gloated over Obama’s deicsion to retreat from Afghanistan in 2016.
In 2001, “we had told the Americans that they will not benefit from this felony, rather it will increase their miseries. But they did not pay any heed and now they are not only stuck into the longest and humiliating war of their history but also internationally their foes are increased; their military, political and economic majesty and supremacy are demolished; rather their decline and deterioration started from the start of this futile war,” said the May 30 statement.
The Taliban also reiterated the demand that all of their imprisoned jihadis be released.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is determined to get all the Mujahidin prisoners released as soon as possible,” read the June 1 statement.
The Taliban said they expect Western legal groups, such as ACLU, to help in their campaign.
“In this regard, we expect all the legal and human rights societies particularly the United Nations to share and accelerate their efforts with Afghan people and the Islamic Emirate on the basis of human sympathy so that all the incarcerated people are freed and their basic legal and human rights are safeguarded and they could lead an independent and peaceful life of their own accord,” said the statement.
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