[guest post by Dana]
Recently the Los Angeles Times set out to reassure us that most of the five released detainees from Guantanamo have less than hard-core pasts, so there’s no real reason for concern.
And, of the five, Khairulla Khairkhwa was just another friendly open-minded guy. From the article, according to journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, who was in western Afghanistan in the late 1990’s:
At the provincial government offices, he saw a parade of local clerics come to meet the governor, founding Taliban member Khairullah Khairkhwa, who greeted them in the local Persian, a language most of his comrades didn’t speak.
“He knew these people didn’t really support the Taliban, so he made an extra effort,” said Yusufzai, who has covered Afghanistan for three decades. “He was a friendly man and did not try to force his views on you.”
Khairkhwa was arrested by the Pakistanis and transferred in 2002 to Guantanamo. Just another friendly guy.
To support this view, the LAT cites Alex Strick van Linschoten, who has co-written three books on the Taliban. He believes that because the five released detainees are getting on in years there’s not much reason to be concerned.
It’s [their release] a boost in terms of morale, but I doubt whether this would make any kind of practical impact, at least in the short term, to the conflict inside Afghanistan. All these guys are pretty old now.
(Note: The detainees range in age from 43 to 47 years)
The article also cites State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf (we’ve heard from her before…) who has publicly accused critics of political maneuvering. She doesn’t defend the five, but manages some shameful rationalizations.
These were not good guys. I am in no way defending these men. But being, you know, mid-to-high-level officials in a regime that’s grotesque and horrific also doesn’t mean they themselves directly pose a threat to the United States.
However, what the LAT article fails to mention is that not long ago, the Obama administration went to court to prevent the release of founding Taliban member Khairulla Khairkhwa.
In a decision on May 31, 2011, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in favor of the government–and “Respondent Barack Obama”–in its effort to keep Khairulla Khairkhwa in detention. That decision, once classified “Secret,” has since been declassified and released.
While the administration attempts to reassure us that our nation remains safe and any threats have been “sufficiently mitigated”, one is naturally compelled to wonder, if not that long ago the Obama administration went to court to prevent a particular detainee from being released, what has transpired to make them think he is no longer a threat?? Because surely, something rather significant had to have occurred to reassure them, thus reassure us, right??
Three years ago, the administration argued in court against Khairkhwa’s writ of habeas corpus because of his senior position with the Taliban, his close relationship with Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and his support for Taliban forces fighting against the United States.
The case provides a window on the Obama administration’s concerns–concerns that many top intelligence and military officials continue to have. The court summarized the government’s case this way. “The government contends that the petitioner, a former senior Taliban official, is lawfully detained because he was part of Taliban forces and purposefully and materially supported such forces in hostilities against the United States,” the court wrote in the introduction to its opinion.
The decision affirmed the arguments put forth by the Obama administration, noting that Khairkhwa “was, without question, a senior member of the Taliban both before and after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.” It continued: Khairkhwa was “a member of the Taliban’s highest governing body, the Supreme Shura” and “was a close associate of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who appointed him Governor of the province of Herat in 1999.”
Khairkhwa’s legal team argued that he had no military responsibilities with the Taliban, but the court found that “the record belies that contention.”
And why did the court find that so? Because of what Khairkhwa himself claimed:
“The petitioner admitted that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he served as a member of a Taliban envoy that met clandestinely with senior Iranian officials to discuss Iran’s offer to provide the Taliban with weapons and other military support in anticipation of imminent hostilities with US coalition forces,” read the opinion. “The petitioner has also exhibited detailed knowledge about sensitive military-related matters, such as the locations, personnel and resources of Taliban military installations, the relative capabilities of different weapons systems and the locations of weapons caches.”
This knowledge, the court found, was not for theoretical purposes. “The petitioner operated within the Taliban’s formal command structure, providing material support to Taliban fighters both before and after the outset of hostilities with US coalition forces.”
Khairkhwa was close to Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who welcomed al Qaeda to Afghanistan and was instrumental in the facilitation of their activities, both before and after the 9/11 attacks. “Even after the US led invasion of Afghanistan,” the court found, Khairkhwa “remained within Mullah Omar’s inner circle, despite the fact that Mullah Omar had limited his contact to only his most trusted commanders.”
The Obama administration – at least three years ago – was very concerned. They argued:
Khairkhwa had fought with the mujahideen in the 1980s “and remained deeply involved in the Taliban’s military operations until his capture in early 2002.” Khairkhwa, according to the government’s case, has vast experience on the ground as a military leader, having commanded the Taliban forces during their offensive on Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998, among other efforts. Eyewitnesses to those attacks described a “systematic massacre” of local Shiites as part of the Khairkhwa-led offensive.
The Obama administration further argued that because Khairkhwa had been a jihadist leader for such a long period of time, it required him to remain in detention by the U.S. government.
Unfortunately, the LAT chose not to give us all of the necessary information to make a more informed assessment of any possible threat posed by this particular detainee’s release. A
cynic critical thinker who can string two thoughts together might suspect there was a particular bias or motive at work…not unlike this White House.