The new Taliban government in Afghanistan is turning out to be just about what one might have imagined. For talent, it seems to draw heavily not only on men who were heavily involved in the 20-year war against the United States but on men who were officials in the Taliban regime we defenestrated in 2002. Via Fox News:
Four out of five Guantanamo detainees whom former President Barack Obama released in exchange for former U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2014 now hold senior positions in the interim government created by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
According to the Afghan television network TOLOnews, the Taliban-formed government gave leadership positions to Khairullah Khairkhwa, Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Mohammad Fazl; all of whom were released in a 2014 deal between the Obama administration and the Taliban to free Bergdahl, whom the Taliban had held as a prisoner since 2009.
On Tuesday, the Taliban announced that Khairkhwa would serve as acting minister for information and culture, Noori would serve as acting minister of borders and tribal affairs, Wasiq would serve as acting director of intelligence, and Fazl would serve as deputy defense minister.
Wasiq will reprise his role as the Taliban’s intelligence director, previously serving in the role prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Wasiq had close tied to al Qaeda while he was serving in that position at the time.
Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), noted that Fazl will also return to his role as deputy defense minister. “U.S. officials found that Fazl worked with senior al Qaeda personnel, including Abdel Hadi al Iraqi, one of Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenants,” Joscelyn wrote in a tweet. “Al Iraqi is still held at Guantanamo.”
Indeed, the prison camp at Club Gitmo appears to have fulfilled the role for the Taliban that Harvard’s Kennedy School does for Democrats. In fact, you can almost hear a simpering Anthony Blinken bragging about the long association that many of the new Taliban leaders have with the United States and how that will be a very, very good thing.
Late last month, following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban announced that Mohammad Nabi Omari, another former Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (GTMO) detainee with close ties to al Qaeda, would govern Khost Province.
For those holding fast to the Biden State Department’s assurances that this new version of the Taliban will do what it can to curry favor from the international “community,” I offer this. The supreme mullah, the capo di tutti capi, the د ټولو ملایانو ملا, is Hibatullah Akhundzada.
One quick point on the Taliban’s “new” emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada (“new” is in quotes because he have been the Taliban’s emir since 2015). He is so moderate, he let his own son become a suicide bomber in 2017. https://t.co/BOegxNOmsn https://t.co/uHogJa4hd8
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) September 7, 2021
In addition to old-line Taliban stalwarts, the new government adds a leaven of hardcore terrorists from the Haqqani Network. If you don’t have your program for the 2021 Central Asia Terrorist Exposition handy, the Haqqani Network can best be viewed as the Pasto-speaking branch of al-Qaeda.
This poses quite a dilemma from a Western CT perspective.
To any of those [naively] proposing we explore a CT relationship with a #Taliban government, our main interlocutor is now an internationally-sanctioned & most-wanted terrorist, with a $5 million bounty on his head. https://t.co/oAHdTNdfgF
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) September 7, 2021
The first openly gay State Department spokesman Ned Price has claimed that the Taliban and Haqqani Network are separate. This, as I elaborate on in Maybe Our Mistakes After the Vietnam War Show a Way to Mitigate the Stupidity and Cruelty of Our Afghanistan Fiasco, is just not the case. On the contrary, the two groups have gone to great lengths to publicly state that they are partners and the government positions they have been given demonstrate that, not Price’s propaganda, to be the true state of play.
How much of this is real, and how much is trolling? I’m not an authority on who’s-up-who’s-down in Taliban world, but the fact that the leadership is composed of members of the old government, Gitmo graduates, and self-avowed al-Qaeda allies seems suspiciously like a way to rub our noses in the disaster that Joe Biden’s ineptitude has created. It is hard to believe that the commanders who bore the brunt of the battle and who were not US prisoners will step aside for a much older leadership generation. That said, the message being sent at this early stage is clear. The Taliban are who they said they are. They are not statesmen out to get invitations to Davos. They don’t aspire to be junior attendees at the next G-7 meeting. Instead, they are focused on establishing an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. The open question is whether they will be satisfied with being a regional hub of radical Islam or pick up where they left off in 2002.