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The LA Times Whitewashes the Taliban Five

5:35 PM, Jun 7, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Khairkhwa’s military role went far beyond the meetings with the Iranians. According to Judge Urbina’s ruling, Khairkhwa “has also exhibited a detailed knowledge about sensitive military-related matters, such as locations, personnel and resources of Taliban military installations, the relative capabilities of different weapons systems and the locations of weapons caches.”

Judge Urbina continued: 

Furthermore, the petitioner operated within the Taliban’s formal command structure, providing material support to Taliban fighters both before and after the outset of hostilities with U.S. coalition forces. These facts are consistent with the Taliban’s governance model, in which nearly all senior Taliban officials were tasked with both civilian and military responsibilities.

Notice that the court’s straight-forward assessment of the Taliban’s “governance model” flies in the face of what the supposed “experts” told the LA Times. The publication claimed that three of the Taliban five, including Khairkhwa, held strictly “political” roles that were divorced from military affairs. This was simply not so. 

And, according to the Circuit Court, Khairkhwa knew so much about the Taliban’s arms that he “provided detailed information of the Taliban’s assessments of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and of the Taliban’s efforts to obtain and protect Stinger missiles.”

In a op-ed for CNN.com, Anand Gopal, a fellow at the left-leaning New America Foundation, argued that the “Taliban prisoner swap makes sense.” Gopal opens by claiming that “Early in 2002, Taliban leader Khairullah Khairkhwa phoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai asking for a job.” Gopal says that Khairkhwa “was hoping to use” his relationship with Karzai “to switch allegiances to the new U.S.-backed Afghan government.” But before a deal could be made, Gopal claims, Khairkhwa was betrayed by “a rival Taliban figure.”

This is not what happened, according to the D.C. District Court and the Circuit Court, both of which rejected Khaikhwa’s claims. First, the District Court found that there is no evidence Khairkhwa attempted to turn himself into American forces (another story that was floated during Khairkhwa’s habeas hearing). Nor is there any convincing evidence that Khairkhwa was trying to join, or surrender to, Hamid Karzai and the new Afghan government. Khairkhwa’s apologists have offered different versions of the story (Gopal says Kharikhwa’s supposed offer came in early 2002, others say in late 2001), but none of them ring true. 

District Court Judge Urbina found (citations omitted):

Likewise, even if the petitioner contacted Hamid Karzai in mid-November 2001 to discuss the possibility of surrender, the petitioner did not turn himself in, but was instead captured in Chaman, Pakistan approximately three months later. The petitioner has provided no credible explanation for what he was doing or what steps he had taken to disassociate himself from the Taliban during the months after he allegedly contacted Hamid Karzai to discuss the possibility of surrender.

Judge Urbina went on to evaluate other aspects of Khairkhwa’s story. Khairkhwa claimed that he went to Chaman, Pakistan (instead of turning himself in Afghanistan, which would have been the easier option) simply because he needed medical treatment for his stomach. Not so, according to the District Court (citations omitted):

[Khairkhwa], however, was not captured at a medical office in Chaman. Rather, it is undisputed that the petitioner was captured at the Pakistani residence of senior Taliban official Abdul Manan Niazi. As previously discussed, Niazi was a former Taliban military commander and Governor of Kabul, who had personally overseen the massacre of thousands of Shiites in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in August 1998 and was part of the Taliban delegation that traveled to Iran in October 2001 to discuss Iran’s offer to provide military assistance to the Taliban. The fact that [Kharikhwa] was captured at the home of a hardline Taliban military commander greatly undermines the [Khairkhwa’s] contention that he had disassociated himself from the Taliban prior to his apprehension by Pakistani authorities. 

In sum, Judge Urbina found:

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