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‘Taliban 5’ Members Said Trying to Re-engage Jihad Networks Puts All Freed, Dangerous Jihadists in Spotlight

The US Army officially announced last week that it’s charged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion. He allegedly left his platoon in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban in 2009.

‘Taliban 5’ Members Said Trying to Re-engage Jihad Networks Puts All Freed, Dangerous Jihadists in Spotlight Homeland Security TodayMeanwhile, Fox News reported at least three of the former top Al Qaeda-tied “Taliban Five” leaders (who were among the fundamentalist group’s most extreme and dangerous) who were traded for Bergdahl last June in a very controversial swap have attempted to "re-engage” with their old jihadi networks, according to “a government official familiar with the intelligence.”

That wasn’t a surprise.

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) said last summer that, “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.”

Garner said in his report, Unleashing Terror: Disaster of Releasing Taliban Leaders is a Foregone Conclusion, in the June/July, 2014 issue of Homeland Security Today that, “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. 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,” Garner said.

In other words, the Obama 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 thefirst place, if intelligence authorities are correct, and it would increasingly appear they are. With that said, it’s also very likely that some, if not all, of the five high-level Al Qaeda detainees from Yemen the President released from GITMO in January will “re-engage” in jihad.

During a hearing in February by the House Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to be updated on detainee transfers from GTMO, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told the panel that, “besides notifying folks that these terrorists have gone back into business, there is very little at this point that DIA could do besides warning of their continued operations.”

Answering questions posed by committee members about the Taliban Five — whose one-year restriction to stay in Qatar ends in June — Stewart said, “We continue to provide tactical intelligence support [and] we continue to look at monitoring the number of sources who will tell us whether these individuals have gone back into business,” but ultimately they could slip away back into their jihadi network.

"I’ve seen nothing that causes me to believe these folks are reformed or [have]changed their ways or intend to re-integrate to society in ways to give me any confidence that they will not return in trying to do harm to America," Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told Fox News.

Garner first warned last summer in his Homeland Security Today report that, “The five top Taliban detainees released in June from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility in a prisoner exchange … for Bergdahl are among the fundamentalist group’s most extreme and dangerous” who will undoubtedly return to jihad.

They include Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa. When he was operational, Khairkhwa directly associated with Bin Laden, and intelligence indicated he was associated with Al Qaeda’s former leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.

His leaked classified Joint Task Force- Guantanamo (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 thesmuggling 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 exclaimed.

Less than a day after Obama released the most recent GITMO detainees – all hard-core former Al Qaeda jihadists — it was disclosed that former GITMO detainee Mullah Abdul Rauf had 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 becomeclosely associated with several senior level Taliban commanders and leaders …”

Nevertheless, State Department spokeswoman soon to be White House Communications Director Jen Psaki defended the administration’s decision to trade five of the most dangerous Taliban leaders who pose a high risk of re-engaging in jihad because, as Obama has said, “GITMO continues to inspire violent acts around the globe.”

But, “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 said.

At a press briefing this week, Psaki said, "Was [the Bergdahl swap] worth it? Absolutely” — while denying the trade had anything to do with closing GITMO. "We have a commitment to our men and women serving in our military, defending our national security everyday that we’re going to do everything we can to bring them home if we can and that’s what we did in this case."

Meanwhile, the White House continues to identify the Taliban as an Islamist jihadi organization. Instead, it calls the Taliban an “armed insurgency.” DIA Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, though, has had no problem calling the Taliban as “terrorists.”

Al Qaeda’s not on the run, and neither are its affiliates. And neither is the Islamic State (ISIS). In fact, Islamist jihadism – and that’s what it is; it isn’t “workplace violence” or non-religiously motivated “violent extremism” — is sweeping through the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

Religiously inspired Islamist jihadism – which is what these groups say is their motivation — is the enemy, and it’s more rampant than ever.

Editor’s note: Read more about the Islamist jihadists the administration has released in the Homeland Security Today report, There Will be Blood: Freeing the Vilest of the Vile from GITMO.

Also read the Homeland Security Today reports, Better the Devil You Know? Jihadism Without Al Zawahiri, If Jihadi Groups Form Alliances, Threat to West Will be Unprecedented, The Potential that Jihadi Groups will Unify … and With it, More Savagery, and, Obama Schedules ‘Violent Extremism’ Summit, But Still Unable to Acknowledge Islamist Jihad.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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