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The LA Times Whitewashes the Taliban Five

5:35 PM, Jun 7, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Throughout his tenure in the Taliban, [Khairkhwa] remained a prominent leader and a close ally of Mullah Omar. [Khairkhwa’s] ties to Mullah Omar persisted even after a U.S. cruise missile struck Mullah Omar’s vehicle in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Mullah Omar limited his contacts to his most trusted lieutenants, including [Khairkhwa]. 

Contrary to Gopal’s claims that Khairkhwa was trying to turn himself in, he remained very much in the fight after the U.S.-led invasion began. The Circuit Court found a complete “absence of anything showing that he dissociated himself from the Taliban.” Contacting Karzai or other officials is not evidence that Khairkhwa had a change of heart. He was merely seeking possible alternative paths for survival during the initial American onslaught — “hedging his bets,” as the District Court found. But even then Khairkhwa stuck with the Taliban. 

The book on Khairkhwa is even more disturbing. During Khairkhwa’s habeas proceedings, according to Judge Urbina’s decision, the U.S. government “raised a host of additional allegations against [Khairkhwa], including allegations that the petitioner had ties to Usama bin Ladin, harbored al Qaida operatives in Herat during his tenure as Governor of Herat and commanded a Taliban garrison at Mazar-e-Sharif during Operation Enduring Freedom.” The court did not address these allegations because other evidence was “sufficient to establish the lawfulness of [Khairkhwa’s] detention.”

As THE WEEKLY STANDARD has reported, the allegations of Khairkhwa’s ties to bin Laden and al Qaeda are contained in the declassified and leaked files authored by Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). The fact that the government introduced these allegations into evidence during Khairkhwa’s habeas proceedings demonstrates that the Obama administration still believes this evidence to be true. That is, the Obama administration still believes that Khairkhwa was tied to al Qaeda’s most senior leader.

In any event, there is no material dispute over Khairkhwa’s importance, regardless of the tales some are now spinning. 

According to Judge Urbina’s ruling, Kharikhwa “rose to the highest level of the Taliban and had close ties to Mullah Omar, who repeatedly appointed [Kharikwha] to sensitive, high-profile positions.” Even “after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, [Khairkhwa] remained within Mullah Omar’s inner circle, despite the fact that Mullah Omar had limited his contacts to only his most trusted commanders.”

Khairkhwa was so important, in fact, that he served as a member of the Taliban’s Supreme Shura council — an elite body of ten Taliban leaders that served directly under Mullah Omar in the Taliban’s government. As the Circuit Court found, the Supreme Shura “supervised subordinate councils responsible for military operations” and was staffed with “military commanders. Khairkhwa was “no exception,” as he, too, had commanded Taliban forces.

And now Khairkhwa has been released to Qatar. It is no wonder why Mullah Omar is so pleased.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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