Thursday, December 29, 2011

Obama administration mulls tranfer of 'high-risk' Taliban prisoners, with strong ties to Al Qaeda

Hoping to improve prospects of a peace deal with the Taliban, the Obama administration is considering transfering five detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Afghan custody, including top Taliban commander, Mohammed Fazl, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The proposed transfer had been reported by Reuters earlier this month, but only now did the news agency learn that Mr. Fazl was among the five detainees under discussion.

However, it should be noted that all five of the detainees may actually be Taliban commanders - with strong ties to Al Qaeda.

Earlier this month, the Long War Journal reported that the Afghan High Peace Council had previously lobbied for the release of four top Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo:
The four Taliban leaders are: Abdul Haq Wasiq (former Taliban deputy minister of intelligence), Mullah Norullah Noori (a former Taliban governor and military commander), Mullah Mohammed Fazl (the Taliban army's chief of staff), and Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa (the former Taliban governor of Herat province).

It is not known if the Obama administration is considering transferring any of the four... [Editors Note: From today's Reuters report, it seems very likely that this is indeed the case.]

All four were deemed "high" risks by US military intelligence officials, according to leaked JTF-GTMO memos. In addition, JTF-GTMO recommended that all four remain in the Defense Department's custody, as opposed to being transferred to the Afghan government...

All four had extensive ties to al Qaeda prior to their capture.
The Long War Journal has the rundown on all four of these murderous thugs. Here's an excerpt from Mr. Fazl's profile:
Mullah Mohammad Fazl was one of the Taliban's most experienced commanders prior to his capture in November 2001... 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."...
Reuters also notes that Mr. Fazl had surrendered to the the Northern Alliance in 2001 and was on the scene of a November 2001 prison riot that killed CIA operative Johnny Micheal Spann, the first American who died in combat in the Afghan war, although there is no clear evidence that Fazl played a direct role in Spann's death.

And, here's a small excerpt from Mr. Khairkhwa's profile:
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 U.S. and Coalition Forces."...

Khairkhwa... oversaw one of Osama bin Laden's training facilities in Herat, too. One US government memo notes that only Khairkhwa or bin Laden himself "could authorize entrance" to the facility, which was one of bin Laden's "most important bases..."