Former Guantanamo Prisoner Commanding Southern Taliban Military

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 7 months ago

From AP:

A man who was freed from Guantanamo after he claimed he only wanted to go home and help his family is now a senior commander running Taliban resistance to the U.S.-led offensive in southern Afghanistan, two senior Afghan intelligence officials say.

Abdul Qayyum is also seen as a leading candidate to be the next No. 2 in the Afghan Taliban hierarchy, said the officials, interviewed last week by The Associated Press.

Qayyum’s key aid in plotting attacks on Afghan and international forces is another former Guantanamo prisoner, said the Afghan intelligence officials as well as a former Helmand governor, Sher Mohammed Akundzada. Abdul Rauf, who told his U.S. interrogators that he had only loose connections to the Taliban, spent time in an Afghan jail before being freed last year.

He rejoined the Taliban, they said. Akundzada said he warned the authorities against releasing both him and Qayyum.

Like Qayyum, Rauf is from Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. During the Taliban’s rule, which ended in 2001, Rauf was a corps commander in the western province of Herat and in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said Akhundzada.

The intelligence officials were interviewed in Helmand, where the Taliban control several districts, and spoke on condition of anonymity lest they attract the militia’s attention.

They said Qayyum was given charge of the military campaign in the south about 14 months ago, soon after his release from the Afghan jail to which he had been transferred from Guantanamo. That includes managing the battle for the town of Marjah, where NATO troops are flushing out remaining militants.

Qayyum, whose Taliban nom de guerre is Qayyum Zakir, is thought to be running operations from the Pakistani border city of Quetta. A Pakistani newspaper report that he was recently arrested was denied by Abdul Razik, a former governor of Kajaki, Qayyum’s home district, which is under extensive Taliban control.

One of the intelligence officials also questioned the report. He said a house Qayyum was in was raided about two weeks ago and three assistants were arrested but he escaped. A week ago he was seen in Pishin, a Pakistani border town about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Quetta, the official said.

“He’s smart and he is brutal,” said Abdul Razik. “He will withdraw his soldiers to fight another day,” he said, referring to the Marjah campaign.

Qayyum, who is about 36 years old, is close to the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. He has been tipped as a candidate to replace the militia’s second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was among several Taliban leaders arrested recently in Pakistan.

So much for the notion of harmless, innocuous prisoners at Guantanamo.  Also, so much for the silly notion that in arresting Mullah Baradar the Pakistanis and CIA took out one of the prime prospects for reconciliation – as if the Quetta Shura would ever reconcile anyway.  If Baradar was so anxious to reconcile, had the approval of Mullah Omar, and had the ear of the Karzai government, then replacing him with a hard core, brutal commander would be inconsistent and illogical.

The serious Taliban will not reconcile, and Guantanamo wasn’t such a bad idea after all, was it?  As it turns out, Guantanamo has some very bad actors, and releasing them is a worse idea than having a potential recruiting ploy for the enemy.  Pity – such a quick, bleak and remarkable end to what was from the beginning very misguided strategic ideas.


Comments

  1. On March 5, 2010 at 11:37 pm, BruceR said:

    The guy Qayyum was a mid-rank Taliban commander pre-Sept. 11 who was captured by the Uzbeks right at the start of the Northern Alliance takeback in 2001 and sold to U.S. intelligence. He never raised a hand against the U.S. as far as anyone could tell before his capture, so after nothing further was likely to be gained in the way of intelligence from him, the Bush admin turned him over to the Afghan government, who as is their wont, released him. And *that’s* when he walked up to Mullah Omar last year and said “I want to liberate our country/kill Americans.”

    I see a strong condemnation of the Afghan “justice system” in this. I could even see an argument that the Guantanamo experience may have turned this man bad. But I don’t see how you look at the facts here and conclude from them Guantanamo was actually a good idea. Lots of other equally tough, equally dangerous Afghans with no more in the way of a previously evidenced hatred of Americans were given places in the government or the Afghan army in 2002, instead: you presumably wouldn’t or couldn’t have spirited everyone who’d commanded a battalion in the Taliban’s forces away in Cuba. Are you so sure it isn’t more like the predictable blowback for a stupid policy of extrajudicial imprisonment?

    By the way, the Abdul Rauf who was in Guantanamo, released in 2007, is different from Mullah Abdul Rauf, the Taliban commander, who had a prominent role in the fighting in Afghanistan long before that. Neither of Kathy’s sources (Afghan NDS or the disgraced Karzai associate Akhundzada) would be a particularly reliable source on anything like this.

  2. On March 6, 2010 at 12:38 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Your reference to Guantanamo as “extrajudicial” is technically incorrect. You’re saying, essentially, that there is no regulatory framework within which it fits. Not correct. There was previous law and regulation governing this sort of thing, and the SCOTUS had also previously approved military tribunals as an appropriate methodological approach to these issues (from previous wars).

    As for Qayyum, whatever brutality he is evincing was there before the U.S. came about in ‘Stan. Whatever predilection towards alignment with religious radicals he is evincing was there in seed form before America ever came on the scene.

    In either case, releasing him turns out to have been a bad idea. Of course.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Taliban and was published March 3rd, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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