Newsweek’s Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau have published a list of the “12 of the most-hunted insurgent commanders on the front lines” in Afghanistan. The list is made up “of lesser-known lieutenants who include some of the insurgency’s most important and aggressive operatives.” But one of the “dirty dozen” is former Guantanamo detainee Maulvi Abdul Rauf Khadim.
Here’s Newsweek’s description of Khadim:
Until 9/11, the hard-nosed Khadim commanded Mullah Omar’s elite mobile reserve force, fighting regime opponents all over Afghanistan. Arrested and sent to Guantánamo soon after the Taliban’s collapse, he was released in late 2007, having convinced his jailers that he wanted only to go home and tend his farm. Escaping from house arrest in Kabul, he fled to Pakistan. Today he’s the shadow governor of southern Uruzgan province and a potential rival to [Abdul Qayyum] Zakir (who was freed from Gitmo at the same time) for the insurgency’s top slot, with a loyal following of fighters at the heart of the U.S. military surge in neighboring Kandahar and Helmand provinces. “He will be very important in the future,” says one senior Taliban commander.
Of course, Khadim did not admit he was one of Mullah Omar’s henchmen during hearings at Gitmo. Instead, Khadim claimed he simply wanted to go back to a life of farming.
“If I go back right now and there is Karzia's [sic] government, all I want to do is go there and work on my land,” Khadim claimed during his administrative review board (ARB) hearing. “I know they are probably a little upset but I had no choice,” Khadim said in reference to his Taliban service. “If they do not mind, I'd love to go there and help them out with the new government and work for them.”
Khadim elaborated further on his plans for life after Guantanamo:
I had two bulls that were pulling the plow to soften the soil and we grew vegetables and rice and corn and that's how I survived from my own land. That's what I'm planning on doing. To go there and feed my family and myself.
Obviously, Khadim lied.
In 2010, as Newsweek previously reported, Khadim sent a letter threatening to kill Afghan tribal elders cooperating with coalition forces and the Afghan government. The letter, which was written on “the letterhead of Mullah Mohammed Omar's defunct Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” read: “We have made a decision for your death. You have five days to leave Afghan soil. If you don't, you don't have the right to complain.”
Newsweek says Khadim is a “potential rival” to Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, who is Mullah Omar’s top military commander. Zakir is also a former Gitmo detainee. He is not included on the dirty dozen list only because he is more senior than the insurgents listed.
Intelligence officials have told me that Zakir is likely responsible for the murder of dozens of Marines in Afghanistan.
Like Khadim, Zakir claimed during his Gitmo hearings that he would be a wholesome family man if released.
During his ARB hearing, for example, Zakir was asked: “What do you plan to do if you are released back to Afghanistan for work?” Zakir responded: “I want to go back home and join my family and work in my land and help my family.”
One military official asked, “Do you like what the United States is doing in Afghanistan now?” Zakir responded: “Yes, I am very happy. I am very pleased like I told you before. They are [re]building my country.”
Zakir insisted: “I [have] never been America's enemy and I never intend to be.”
Today, Zakir and Khadim are not farmers. They are among America’s most wanted in Afghanistan.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.