A Taliban prisoner who was released from the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2014 by former US president Barack Obama, is emerging as the key figure who reunited the insurgents and helped them capture the power in Afghanistan. Khairullah Khairkhwa was released along with four others in exchange for captured US Army soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Others released along with Khairkhwa were Mohammed Nabi, who served as chief of security for the Taliban in Qalat; Mohammad Fazl, who according to Human Rights Watch allegedly presided over the mass killing of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001; Abdul Haq Wasiq, who served as the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence and Mullah Norullah Nori, who was a senior Taliban commander in Mazar-e-Sharif in 2001.
The ‘Gitmo Five’ were labelled “hardest of the hardcore” by US intelligence officials who urged Obama to reconsider his decision. However, those warnings were ignored, with assurance that these five terrorists will be kept in Qatar, so that they are not able to indulge in active politics in Afghanistan.
But now, a report the New York Post has claimed that Khairkhwa and the four others released along with him made contact with active Taliban terrorists and vowed to drive American troops out of the country which they ruled 20 years ago. Khairkhwa played a key role in formation of a Taliban regime in exile and became official negotiator for peace talks, the Post report said.
In the negotiations that followed with the western countries, Khairkhwa discussed the terms with US President Joe Biden’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, at a conference in Moscow. However, the team refused to promise they would not launch a spring offensive despite calls from the United States, Russia and China.
Al Jazeera has now quoted Taliban fighters to report that Khairkhwa, along with the other members of its regime in exile, will be brought back to Afghanistan.
Washington has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly two decades, since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks masterminded by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden who was based in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The invasion toppled the Taliban regime, but they never left.
As soon as the withdrawal of US forces was announced, the Taliban stepped up their efforts to capture Afghanistan and launched an offensive against the western-trained forces. They started capturing territories at a stunning pace, and completely seized power in Afghanistan on Sunday — two weeks before the US was set to complete its troop withdrawal.
President Biden acknowledged on Monday that the collapse of the Afghan government occurred much faster than his administration expected.
The president said in remarks at the White House, “The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” Yet, the president said that the rapid end of the Afghan government only vindicates his choice to end the war.
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