Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
A bit of good news out of Afghanistan on a Saturday afternoon. Sergeant Bowl Bergdahl, pictured above, has been released by the Taliban that have been holding him for several years. He's now back in US control. This was accomplished by agreeing to exchange him for five detainees being held at Guantanamo. They will be released to the Qataris who have agreed to supervise them.
In comments COL Lang asked who was SGT Bergdahl exchanged for. According to the news reports he was exchanged for five Taliban being held at Guantanamo. According to CNN, based on confirmation from (unnamed) Administration officials, the five Taliban are:
Former Afghan minister of interior during Taliban rule, governor of Herat and a military commander. Alleged to have been "directly associated" with Osama bin Laden. According to a detainee assessment, Khairkhwa was probably associated with al Qaeda's now-deceased leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. He is also described as one of the "major opium drug lords in western Afghanistan" and a "friend of current Afghan President Hamid Karzai." He was arrested February 2002 in Pakistan and was transferred to Guantanamo in May 2002. During questioning, Khairkhwa denied all knowledge of extremist activities.
Deputy minister of defense under the Taliban, senior military commander who was chief of staff of the Afghan army and commander of the Taliban's 10th Division. Wanted by the U.N. in connection with the massacre of thousands of Afghan Shiites during the Taliban rule. "When asked about the murders, detainee did not express any regret," according to the detainee assessment. Alleged to have been associated with several militant Islamist groups, including al Qaeda. Surrendered in November 2001 to Northern Alliance (opponents of the Taliban). Transferred to U.S. custody in December 2001 and one of the first arrivals at Guantanamo. Assessed as having high intelligence value.
Senior Taliban commander during hostilities with U.S. and allies in Mazar-e Sharif in late 2001. Taliban governor of two provinces and also implicated, according to detainee assessment, in the murder of Afghan Shiites. Nori claimed during interrogation that "he never received any weapons or military training." Surrendered in November 2001 to Northern Alliance and transferred to U.S. custody a month later. According to 2008 detainee assessment, Nori "continues to deny his role, importance and level of access to Taliban officials." Same assessment characterized him as high risk and of high intelligence value.
Formerly deputy director of Taliban intelligence. An administrative review in 2007 cited a source as saying that Wasiq was also "an al Qaeda intelligence member" and had links with members of another militant Islamist group, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. Wasiq claimed, according to the review, that he was arrested while trying to help the United States locate senior Taliban figures. He denied any links to militant groups.
According to the first administrative review of Omari in 2004, he was a member of the Taliban and associated with both al Qaeda and another militant group Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. He was the Taliban's chief of communications and helped al Qaeda members to escape from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Omari acknowledged during hearings that he had worked for the Taliban but denied connections with militant groups. He also said that he had worked with a U.S. operative named Mark to try to track down Mullah Omar.
*Adam L. Silverman is the Cultural Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and/or the US Army.