For the first time since 2001, “Al Qaeda” wasn’t mentioned in a Presidential State of the Union address when President Obama gave his latest on January 20, 2015. Obama also said, “As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice. So it makes no sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. (Applause). Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GITMO in half. Now it is time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It is not who we are. It’s time to close GITMO. (Applause).
“We are committed to closing the detention facility. That’s our goal and we are working toward that goal,” Ian Moss, a spokesman for the Department of State on GITMO issues has said.
The administration has consistently claimed that the remaining GITMO detainees – the last and most dangerous who pose a high risk of re-engaging in jihad — is because “GITMO continues to inspire violent acts around the globe.”
Yet, in November, 2012, the Obama administration pressured Iraq not to release senior Hezbollah leader Ali Mussa Daqduq — who’d been captured by US troops in Basra on March 20, 2007 and eventually turned over to Iraq for prosecution — because the administration believed he’d likely commit more acts of terrorism against US forces if he were released. The US said the Hezbollah operative was guilty of kidnapping, torturing and murdering US soldiers in Iraq. Two Iraqi courts found him not guilty and ordered his release against the US’s wishes.
The contrast to the administration’s release of high and medium risk Al Qaeda operatives is glaring.
“There’s just not much intel to back up [the administration’s reasoning] for letting these terrorists loose. There’s just not,” expressed one of a number of counterterrorism and intelligence officials Homeland Security Today interviewed on background or condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the matter.
“So, let me get this straight; releasing hardened, devoutly Islamist jihadists – the true believers whose minds aren’t going to be changed — is going to stop Al Qaeda, its affiliates, ISIS and other jihad groups and organizations to suddenly stop recruiting and carrying out jihad? That’s just messed up,” another official chimed in.
“The war on terror has reached a lethal phase, and it is insane to be letting these people out of GITMO to go back to the fight,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Indeed. Officials said there’s a high recidivism rate among the most hardened jihadists so far released. If that’s true, then the release of at least three of the latest five Al Qaeda members from Yemen the Department of Defense (DoD) had declared several times should not be released because of the risk they pose, is at odds with Obama’s executive order “to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained and promptly close” GITMO in a manner that’s “consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”
“[That] doesn’t seem to me to be consistent with protecting our national security … or, as the President said in his State of the Union address, working responsibly to cut GITMO’s population!” one of the counterterrorism officials quipped.
What the precise recidivism rate of released detainees is isn’t known because the Pentagon doesn’t identify those it knows or suspects of having “re-engaged” in terrorism because what they know is generally based on classified intelligence. Republicans, Democrats and pundits right and left, meanwhile, all espouse their own figures — everything from a few percent to 30 percent, and often it’s a figure to support whatever position they’re taking.
The reason we know released detainees have returned to jihad is because they’ve made it perfectly clear that they have. And that, is not in dispute.
“But whatever the number, one top Al Qaeda or Taliban leader is one too many,” a senior counterterrorism official said.
Following the administration’s June release of five top Taliban leaders (who were among the fundamentalist group’s most extreme and dangerous) as part of a prisoner exchange for Taliban held American soldier Beau Bergdahl, Homeland Security Today Contributing Writer Godfrey Garner (who retired from US Special Forces in 2006 having served two military tours and six civilian government related tours in Afghanistan) wrote, “Professionals in the Intelligence Community are convinced these men will return to the religiously mandated jihad against America and will be welcomed back with open arms, free to renew their formal ties with Al Qaeda. And in light of their ‘heroic’ time in enemy captivity, they will be hailed as idols seen as having been victorious against America. Fueled by their stature and their renewed commitment to jihad, they will be an asset to Al Qaeda/Taliban anti-America efforts.”
“While the political implications of their release will be debated for some time, the truth about what their release means is nothing short of prophetic. Few can argue that their return to jihad is anything but a foregone conclusion,” Garner stated. “Their release and perceived victory will be used by Taliban and Al Qaeda commanders to strengthen the morale and commitment of their fighters and girder the already growing jihadist infrastructure in the region.” And, “This reinforced foundation will in time serve as an impetus that will result in a resurgent terrorist base of operations in Afghanistan as well as other Al Qaeda bases of operations in the region.”
In other words, the administration’s release of admittedly dangerous Islamist jihadists has become a far better recruitment tool than the administration’s reason for shutting down GITMO in the first place, if intelligence authorities are correct, and it would increasingly appear they are. With that said, it’s very likely at least several of the five Al Qaeda detainees from Yemen just released from GITMO will soon appear on jihadi recruitment posters.
“The groups, their members, their names come and go, but Islamic Jihad, now resurgent once again, has endured — and conquered — for over 1,300 years. We must focus on the Islamic doctrine, law and scriptures that animate and inspire Jihad vs the West,” said Clare Lopez, a former decades-long CIA officer and Islamist expert who is now vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy.
“Terror is the means and the end state sought, as ‘The Quranic Concept of War’ tells us, to target non-compliant populations and destroy through psychological terror our faith in ourselves and our civilizational principles,” Lopez explained. “But the ultimate objective is subjugation of the whole world to Islamic law (Shariah). We must remember that what we fight is not just some vague ‘violent extremism’ — no — we fight to live free of shariah … it is supremely important that [we] focus on the broader issue: global Islamic Jihad.”
The latest five released
On June 28, 2006, and again on May 12, 2008, Joint Task Force GITMO (JTF-GITMO) recommended Muhammad Ahmad Salam Al Khatib remain detained “under DoD control” because he was considered a “high risk” Al Qaeda jihadist who “likely posed a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
Khatib is one of the three out of five JTF-GITMO detainees released this month DoD said should not be released from DoD control because they’re considered to “pose a threat to the US.”
Nevertheless, he and four other members of Al Qaeda were the latest Al Qaeda/Taliban jihadists released by the Obama administration against numerous concerns expressed by DoD leaders, Homeland Security Today was told by officials familiar with the decision process on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to talk about it.
It’s unclear why DoD changed its mind that Khatib is no longer a “high risk,” but officially DoD said he and the other four who were released with him were "unanimously approved" for release by all agencies responsible for reviewing them.
JTF-GITMO had “assessed [Khatib] to be a member of Al Qaeda” and “further assessed to be a member of a Faisalabad, Pakistan cell created by senior Al Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaydah and Al Qaeda military operations commander Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi with the purpose of returning to Afghanistan to conduct remote controlled improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks against US and Coalition forces,” according to a leaked top secret JTF-GITMO file on Khatib. The file said he “adheres to a known Al Qaeda cover story and is assessed to have traveled to Afghanistan via an Al Qaeda facilitation network. Detainee was also identified by a senior Al Qaeda member as a trainee at the Al Qaeda Al Faruq Training Camp and is listed on Al Qaeda documents.”
Al Iraqi – believed to have been captured by Pakistani security forces during raids on Al Qaeda safehouses — is one of the 17 high-value detainees at GITMO who the Guantánamo Review Task Force recommended for prosecution for war crimes. DoD says he was Al Qaeda’s liaison to the Taliban, Al Qaeda in Iraq – which is now ISIS, or the Islamic State — and other affiliated groups.
The top secret JTF-GITMO assessment of Khatib emphasized additional information about [him] is available in an SCI [Special Compartmented Information] supplement. SCI intelligence means the intelligence was gathered by a particularly sensitive intelligence collection method or operation.
Khatib was captured during the same March 28, 2002 raids on Al Qaeda safe houses in Pakistan in which Ahmad Abdel Qader Ahmad Hasan Abu Bakr Al Hadrami was taken into custody.
An SCI supplement also is attached to Hadrami’s leaked classified JTF-GITMO file. JTF-GITMO twice determined he should remain under DoD control. JTF-GITMO “assessed [Hadrami] to be a member of Al Qaeda who reportedly received training at an Al Qaeda sponsored training camp, resided in Al Qaeda associated guesthouses and fought as a member of Usama Bin Laden’s (UBL) 55th Arab Brigade. Detainee is further assessed to be a member of a Faisalabad, Pakistan cell created by senior Al Qaeda facilitator Zayn Al Abidin Muhammad Husayn, aka Abu Zubaydah, and Al Qaeda military operations commander Nashwan Abd Al Razzaq Abd Al Baqi, aka Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi, with the purpose of returning to Afghanistan to conduct remote controlled and improvised explosive device attacks against US and Coalition forces. Detainee had affiliations with multiple non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provided support to Al Qaeda.”
An analyst’s note stated, “The 55th Arab Brigade, also referred to in [intelligence] reporting as the Al Qaeda Brigade, the Mujahideen Brigade and the Arab Fighters, served as UBL’s primary battle formation supporting Taliban objectives, with UBL participating closely in the command and control of the brigade. Zubaydah had primary operational command of the 55th Arab Brigade, serving as UBL’s military commander in the field.”
Hadrami received training from and fought with the Taliban and had an association with an organization that “demonstrated intent and willingness to provide financial support to terrorist organizations willing to attack US persons or interests, or provide witting operational support to Priority 1-2 terrorist groups.”
Hadrami’s classified JTF-GITMO assessment said he was arrested on March 28, 2002 when, “Pakistani authorities conducted raids on two Faisalabad safe houses … arresting suspected Al Qaeda fighters under the command of Abu Zubaydah, and killing one. At the Issa Safe House, Pakistani police and intelligence officials arrested at least 15 suspected Al Qaeda members including detainee. At the other safe house, Pakistani officials arrested Abu Zubaydah and at least seven other suspected Al Qaeda members along with manuals, tools and components consistent with the assembly of explosive detonators. These safe houses were operated by the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and were part of a network of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba houses and operatives enlisted by Abu Zubaydah after the fall of Kandahar, Afghanistan to help Al Qaeda’s Arab fighters escape Afghanistan.”
According to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCT), Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT), also known as Army of the Righteous, is one of the largest and most proficient of the Kashmir-focused militant groups. LT formed in the early 1990s as the military wing of Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad, a Pakistan-based Islamic fundamentalist missionary organization founded in the 1980s to oppose the Soviets in Afghanistan. Since 1993, LT has conducted numerous attacks against Indian troops and civilian targets in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir state, as well as several high-profile attacks inside India itself … The United States and United Nations have designated LT an international terrorist organization. The Pakistani government banned LT and froze its assets in 2002. In 2008, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on four senior LT leaders, and in April 2012 two senior LT leaders were placed on the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice list.”
“The Indian government has charged LT with committing the November 26–29, 2008 attacks in Mumbai, in which gunmen using automatic weapons and grenades attacked several sites, killing more than 160 people,” NCT said.
Also, according to the NCT, “In March 2002, senior Al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah was captured at an LT safehouse in Faisalabad, suggesting that some LT members assist the group.”
Zubaydah, who was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1971, is one of 17 high-value detainees JTF-GITMO recommended for prosecution. He was a “senior member of Al Qaeda with direct ties to multiple high-ranking terrorists such as Usama Bin Laden,” his leaked classified JTF-GITMO file said. He “has a vast amount of information regarding Al Qaeda personnel and operations and is an admitted operational planner, financier and facilitator of international terrorists and their activities,” the file says, adding, “Detaineeparticipated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces and was involved in several plans to commit terrorist acts against the US, its interests and allies.”
According to an analyst’s note, the man named Hamza who Hadrami said he “resided with … in the Wazir Akbar Khan area in Kabul for two weeks until September 2001 … is assessed to be identifiable with guesthouse operator Hamza Al Qaiti … an Al Qaeda operative who facilitated training and coordinated movement of Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan. He served as a key mujahideen commander in Chechnya and was a commander on the front line in Afghanistan. He also operated a guesthouse in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, the former diplomatic district commandeered by the Taliban and Al Qaeda for quarters and training.”
Also released this month is Abdul Rahaman Atah Allah Ali Mahmood Shubatti. Although JTF-GITMO recommended he should be freed, it nevertheless considers him “a medium risk” who “may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
Like the others, Shubatti was “assessed to be a member of Al Qaeda” who “participated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces as a fighter in Usama Bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade and then in Tora Bora.” JTF-GITMO said he “was recruited in Yemen and traveled to Afghanistan using a false passport facilitated by the Al Qaeda associated Jama’at Tablighi” and received militant training and used Al Qaeda associated facilities.”
JTF-GITMO also determined Al Khadr Abdallah Muhammad Al Yafi could be released, even though he, too, was considered a medium risk and “is an Islamic extremist and a veteran jihadist who admitted that he traveled to Afghanistan for jihad.” He also “was identified as being on the front lines of Kabul, Afghanistan, at an Al Qaeda supported guesthouse and at Tora Bora.” He also “is reportedly an Al Qaeda facilitator who trained at multiple camps in Afghanistan, and is possibly an Usama Bin Laden bodyguard.”
The last detainee just released is Fadil Bin Hussien Bin Saleh Bin Hautas, who JTF-GITMO said also posed a medium risk to the US. He was “assessed to be a possible member of Al Qaeda … linked to known Al Qaeda recruiters and guesthouses. He was arrested trying to flee from Afghanistan to Pakistan.”
Those are the latest five Islamist jihadists just released by the Obama administration who were Al Qaeda members of significance.
In December, the administration released another prominent Al Qaeda detainee, Sabri Muhammad Ibrahim Al Qurashi. He was among another five detainees who were released despite DoD having said he shouldn’t be released because he still posed a risk to the US.
According to the leaked top secret JTF-GITMO assessment of Al Qurashi, he was “assessed to be a member of Al Qaeda [and] received militant training at the Al Qaeda Al Faruq Training Camp, is identified on Al Qaeda affiliated documents and by senior Al Qaeda members and provided a known Al Qaeda cover story. Detainee was arrested at Anal Qaida safe house managed by senior Al Qaeda facilitator Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj, aka Riyadh the Facilitator. Detainee used the Al Qaeda support network to travel throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan and fled Afghanistan with Al Qaeda leadership. Detainee has a long-term affiliation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which remain active against US interests worldwide and maintains contact with an identified member of Al Qaeda’s global terrorism network.”
The top secret JTF-GITMO assessment of Qurashi also said additional SCI information about him was available.
And on, and on, it goes
As previously pointed out, detainees know to have returned to jihad are those who’ve made it perfectly clear they have — the most savage of whom is the former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) Caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. While he wasn’t detained at GITMO, he was a detainee at the largest US run detention facility in Iraq, Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr, which was named in memory of FDNY Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca who was killed in the 9/11 attack.
Al Baghdadi was among prisoners the administration freed in 2009 as Obama wound down the US’s presence in Iraq.
Army Col. Kenneth King, the commanding officer of Camp Bucca when Al Baghdadi was released, has said he remembers Al Baghdadi saying, ‘I’ll see you guys in New York.’” King noted Al Baghdadi was aware many of his captors were reservists with the 306 Military Police Battalion based in Long Island, New York that included members of the New York police and fire departments.
Another released detainee back in the fight is Ibrahim Sulayman Muhammad Al Rubaysh, who JTF-GITMO twice determined should continue to remain in “detention under DoD control.” He was captured in 2001 and spent five years at GITMO before the Bush administration released him into Saudi custody on December 13, 2006 – only weeks after JTF-GITMO declared for the second time he should remain under DoD control. He escaped from the Saudis and now is AQAP’s spiritual leader, jihadi recruiter, and, some counterterrorism intelligence officials believe, Islamic State (ISIS) leader Al Baghdadi’s link to AQAP in Yemen.
Al Qaeda military operations commander Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi, who has ties to recently released detainees Muhammad Ahmad Salam Al Khatib and Ahmad Abdel Qader Ahmad Hasan Abu Bakr Al Hadrami, is one of the 17 high-value detainees DoD said had been Al Qaeda’s liaison to Al Qaeda in Iraq – now ISIS.
In 2013, Rubaysh called for jihad against Americans, saying, “It is my duty to spur the Muslims to kill the Americans, to get them out of the Muslims’ land.”
Since then, the Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program has put a $5 million bounty on his head and designated him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
When Rubaysh was captured, according to his leaked classified JTF-GITMO file, he had a “bank receipt” from Saudi Arabia’s largest private bank, Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation, which changed its name to Al Rajhi Bank in February 2006. In its July 2012 investigative report, US Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations stated a “2003 CIA report allegedly stated [Islamist] extremists ‘ordered operatives in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Yemen’ to use Al Rajhi Bank.”
“After the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001,” the report stated, “evidence began to emerge that Al Rajhi Bank and some of its owners had links to financing organizations associated with terrorism, including evidence that the bank’s key founder was an early financial benefactor of Al Qaeda.”
According to the 339-page report, “In 2007, additional information surfaced about Al Rajhi Bank’s possible links to terrorism, including articles on a 2003 report by the CIA titled, Al Rajhi Bank: Conduit for Extremist Finance, which found that‘[s]enior Al Rajhi family members have long supported Islamic extremists and probably know that terrorists use their bank.”
One more set free Obama’s DoJ said was dangerous
Ali Saleh Kahlah Al Marri — an admitted Al Qaeda operative in the United States — was released last week from a federal prison prior to completing his 15-year sentence for “time served” in federal and DoD custody for eight years without a federal hearing.
Marri was originally arrested in December 2001 during a routine traffic stop in Peoria, Illinois. He was taken into federal custody and held in civilian jails in Peoria and New York City as a material witness to the 9/11 attack as he’d been on the Fed’s radar because Muhammad Mani Ahmad Al ShaalanAl Qahtani identified him as a relative during questioning by the FBI.
Qahtani was an intended “20th Hijacker” for the 9/11 attack, “but failed to gain entry into the US to complete his mission,” according to his leaked classified JTF-GITMO file, which also discloses that “Usama Bin Laden personally chose [Qahtani] for the terrorist operation after [he] swore bayat (oath of loyalty) to UBL. Detainee is associated with other key Al Qaeda members including senior operations planners Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Walid Muhammad Salih Bin Attash, senior Al Qaeda financial manager Mustafa Ahmad Al Hawsawi and military operations supreme commander Muhammad Salah Al Din Abd Al Halim Zaydan.”
Qahtani was arrested on December 15, 2001 by Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps forces traveling with 31 other Arab Al Qaeda fighters referred to by US intelligence as the “Dirty 30,” many of whom were assessed to be UBL bodyguards and other members of UBL’s security detail, JTF-GITMO’s file on him says. He was transferred to US custody from Peshawar, Pakistan on December 27, 2001.
In 2002, the US government charged Marri with making false statements to the FBI and to financial institutions and identity and credit card fraud. He also used a telephone card to call a number in Dubai linked to senior Al Qaeda financial manager Mustafa Ahmad Al Hawsawi, which his eventual guilty plea said he’d been put in touch with by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, who’d instructed Marri to enter the United States no later than September 10, 2001 with an understanding that he was to remain in the United States for an undetermined length of time.
After searching his computer, federal agents said they found folders labeled "jihad arena" and "chem," which, according to the government, contained information on hydrogen cyanide. He was arrested and charged with providing "material support or resources" to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other Al Qaeda operatives and declared an enemy combatant in 2003 and handed over to DoD.
In 2008, however, US courts ruled Marri, a dual national of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and a US resident, was entitled to a federal hearing. He accepted a plea deal in 2009 in which he admitted he agreed with others to provide material support or resources to Al Qaeda in the form of personnel, including himself, to work under Al Qaeda’s direction and control with the intent to further the terrorist activity or terrorism objectives of Al Qaeda, according to DoJ.
He was sentenced to 15-years in federal prison – a term critics and counterterrorism officials said was “far, far, too lenient given his intent to kill God knows how many Americans,” a senior counterterrorism official told Homeland Security Today on background.
"Without a doubt, this case is a grim reminder of the seriousness of the threat we as a nation still face," Attorney General Holder said at the time.
"The facts admitted by Al Marri demonstrate that he attended terrorist training camps, learned Al Qaeda tradecraft and was dispatched by the highest levels of Al Qaeda to carry out its terrorist objectives in America," said Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division David Kris.
"Ali Al Marri was an Al Qaeda ‘sleeper’ operative working on US soil and directed by the chief planner of the 9/11 attacks,” said Arthur M. Cummings, II, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “Al Marri researched the use of chemical weapons, potential targets and maximum casualties. The investigation that disrupted his plot began with tips from local police partners. The investigation that followed took the FBI agents and task force officers around the globe to develop the intelligence to prevent any potential attack and the evidence to bring Al Marri to justice."
"Ali Al Marri admitted that he traveled to central Illinois as an Al Qaeda operative the day before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to plan and prepare for future acts of terrorism within the United States," said Acting US Attorney for the Central District of Illinois Jeffrey B. Lang. "Al Marri’s admissions, in open court and after again being advised of his right to a jury trial, confirm the many details of the government’s findings as a result of the exemplary investigative efforts by the FBI and other agencies."
"Our intelligence community believes [he] was training in poisons at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, and had been sent to the United States before [9/11] to serve as a sleeper agent ready for follow-on attacks," President George W. Bush said during a 2007 speech at the US Coast Guard Academy. “Among the potential targets our Intelligence Community believes this Al Qaeda operative discussed … were water reservoirs, the New York Stock Exchange and United States military academies such as this one.”
And before that …
Less than a day after Obama released the most recent GITMO detainees, it was disclosed that former GITMO detainee Mullah Abdul Rauf has established an ISIS base in Afghanistan’s Helmand province – where Rauf had operated with the Taliban, according to classified information — as well as having been put in charge of recruiting members of the Afghanistan Taliban. His leaked classified JTF-GITMO file said it’s a certainty he was a Taliban Commander in Herat, Afghanistan.
“Many tribal leaders, jihadi commanders, some ulema [members of the religious council] and other people told me that Mullah Rauf had contacted them and invited them to join him,” said Afghanistan Army Gen. Mahmood Khan, deputy commander of the Army’s 215 Corps responsible for the Helmand province.
Khan said Taliban members recruited by Rauf have replaced Taliban flags with the flag of ISIS.
Rauf was captured in December 2001 and transferred from GITMO back to Afghanistan on December 12, 2007. In 2009, he was released from Afghan custody.
According to his leaked classified JTF-GITMO file, he “is associated with several Taliban commanders and leaders in Afghanistan including Mullah Agha Jon Akhund, Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund and Muhammed A Fazl, a JTF-GTMO detainee identified as Chief of Staff for the Taliban, as well as military commander for 2,500 to 3,000 Taliban soldiers. His file also stated that he was “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites.” He also had ties to Al Qaeda.
Fazl was one of five “high risk” Taliban detainees Obama released last June despite JTF-GITMO twice declaring he should be kept detained under DoD control. JTF-GITMO said he “wielded considerable influence throughout the northern region of Afghanistan and his influence continued after his capture,” adding, “If released, [he’d] likely rejoin the Taliban …”
Rauf also “accurately identfied Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund as the Taliban Defense Minister and logistics supervisor [and] personally knew and accurately identified Taliban Commander Mullah Agha Jon Akhund. Despite his claims of being a low-level Taliban foot soldier and food supplier, [Rauf] managed to become closely associated with several senior level Taliban commanders and leaders …”
“The 5 top Taliban detainees released in June from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility in a prisoner exchange for Taliban held American soldier Beau Bergdahl are among the fundamentalist group’s most extreme and dangerous,” said Godfrey Garner. They include Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa. When he was operational, Khairkhwa directly associated withBin Laden, and intelligence indicated he was associated with Al Qaeda’s former leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.
His leaked classified JTF-GITMO file shows he was considered a “high risk” and was twice judged as needing to be kept under DoD control. He “was a senior Taliban official serving as the Minister of Interior, Governor of Herat and a military commander,” according to his JTF-GITMO file. He also “was directly associated to Usama Bin Laden and Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Muhammad Omar …”
Also considered a “high risk” JTF-GITMO twice said should remain under DoD control is Abdul Haq Wasiq, who “served as the Taliban Deputy Minister of Intelligence [and] had direct access to Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin leadership. He was central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups [and] utilized his office to support Al Qaeda and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture.” He also “arranged for Al Qaeda personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods,” JTF-GITMO said. His cousin served as the organization’s chief of operations.
Also released was Mohammad Nabi Omari, another “high risk” detainee JTF-GITMO twice said should remain under DoD control. His classified JTF-GITMO file says he “was a senior Taliban official who served in multiple leadership roles [and] had strong operational ties to Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) groups including Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.” He also was “a member of a joint Al Qaeda/Taliban ACM cell in Khowst and was involved in attacks against US and Coalition forces [who] maintained weapons caches and facilitated the smuggling of fighters and weapons.”
Garner said he also “was the Taliban’s chief of communications instrumental in helping Al Qaeda members escape from Afghanistan to Pakistan.”
The fifth Taliban leader in the group released last June is Mullah Norullah Noori, who was “a senior Taliban military commander in Mazar-e-Sharif during hostilities against US and Coalition forces in late 2001 [who] was also the Taliban governor for the Balkh and Laghman provinces and is wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims.” He also was “associated with Supreme Taliban Commander Mullah Muhammad Omar, other senior Taliban officials, senior Al Qaeda members and other extremist organizations and has remained a significant figure to Taliban supporters.” His “brother is a Taliban commander [who] direct[ed] operations against US and Coalition forces in Zabul Province.”
“These individuals were released to the custody of the government of Qatar on the condition that they be held under house arrest for one year, after which they would be free to do as they please. Though there is concern the government of Qatar won’t be capable, or willing, to hold them for that long, the assumption that they will live a peaceful life and refuse to rejoin their Taliban brethren in the quest to destroy America is ludicrous at best,” Garner concluded.
"At a time that the administration suggests that al Qaeda has been decimated, at a minimum why would we begin to rebuild al Qaeda?" said Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) in announcing that he and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced The Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act of 2015, a bill that would ban further detainee transfers to Yemen, suspend transfers of both high- and medium-risk detainees and require the Secretary of Defense to provide an unclassified report on detainees who have been deemed high- or medium-risk.
"A time out is needed based on circumstances," Graham said at a press briefing on the bill.
Graham added on Fox News that, “The president of the United States has concluded that the war on terror has reached a point that we can safely release people from GITMO. The best I can say about him is, he’s unfocused. That’s delusional thinking. The war on terror has reached a lethal phase, and it is insane to be letting these people out of GITMO to go back to the fight.”
"It’s clear that we need a time out," Ayotte said, adding, "Now is not the time to be emptying Guantanamo.”
Sen. John Barosso (R-Wyo.), said, “The problem is that the president has actually been quickening the releases to the point where 15 were released in December alone. Very little surveillance. Really, there’s not a chance or the opportunity to make sure they don’t go back into the fight. We now have over 100 who have been confirmed back into the fight against us.”
“And that’s the problem … we’ve been releasing a shit load of the last and most dangerous, well-connected jihadists that aren’t likely to quietly skulk off into the night never to be heard from again,” said one of the counterterrorism intelligence officials Homeland Security Today interviewed. “What we’ve done is provide Al Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban and other jihadi groups with hardened, experienced leaders.”