Meet the Former Guantanamo Bay Prisoners, Now Part of the New Taliban Cabinet in Afghanistan


As part of Taliban’s new cabinet, four of Taliban’s fiercest men received senior positions in the Afghan government. All of them had previously been detained by the US at Guantanamo Bay, and were released as part of a prisoner swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2014.

The Taliban appointed Noorullah Noori as acting minister of borders and tribal affairs, Abdul Haq Wasiq as acting intelligence director, Khairullah Khair as acting minister of information and culture and Mohammad Fazil Mazloom to deputy minister of defense.

Here is all you need to know about them:

Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa

Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa was born in 1963 in Kandahar. He is said to be one of the founding fathers of the Taliban movement.

Khairkhwa received his religious education at the Haqqaniya and Akhora Khattak madrassas in Pakistan, alongside other influential Taliban insurgent leaders. Within the overall movement, he was reportedly “one of the more moderate Taliban in leadership circles.”

Khairkhwa is believed to have a close relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Khairkhwah had held key posts during the Taliban regime including acting interior minister and governor of eastern Herat, an income producing province. US lawyers claimed that Khairkhwah was a top commander, extremist and having close ties with al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden.

Unlike many Taliban, he was comfortable speaking to a foreigner and happy to be interviewed in Persian

In February 2002, Khairkhwa was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the Americans; after a short period of detention in Kandahar, he was transferred to Guantánamo jail.

Noorullah Noori

He was born in Shahjoy District, Uruzgan Province. Noori was handed over to US forces and imprisoned in Guantanamo in 2001.

In February 2011, the Afghan High Peace Council named a half-dozen militants it wanted released as a goodwill gesture. The list included Noori.

He was head of the northern zone and governor of Balkh – both administrative, not military positions – when he was captured in November 2001. He was too young to fight in the 1980s jihad and joined the Taliban as they were expanding northwards. Not a member of the original Taliban ‘band of brothers’, he nonetheless rose through the ranks, holding a number of provincial governor positions – in Wardak, Laghman and Baghlan – before ending up in charge of the north.

Abdul Haq Wasi

He was born 1975 in Ghazni Province. He was deputy chief of the Taliban ‘Estakhbarat’ (Intelligence). He was appointed after his cousin, Qari Ahmadullah, became its head.

Ahmadullah, a founding member of the Taliban, was reported killed in a US bombing raid in early January, 2002. He was detained in a sting operation in late 2001 in Ghazni, after being tricked by a subordinate whom he knew had travelled to Pakistan to see Rahim Wardak (later the minister of defence) to start cooperating with the US. The subordinate told Wasiq he had set up a meeting with the Hezb-e Wahdat leader, Abdul Karim Khalili, with whom he could negotiate a security guarantee for safe passage to Kabul and reintegration. Wasiq and Khalili are known to have previously been in contact. One listener to the BBC in November 2001 remembers Wasiq saying that ‘Mr Khalili’ had agreed to give safe passage through Hazarajat to Taleban forces fleeing southwards. However, when Wasiq turned up at the rendezvous, instead of Khalili being there, he was delivered to a US Special Forces team and was detained in Guantanamo.

Mohammad Fazil Mazloom

He is a Pashtun from Kandahar province. He was a military commander during the fight against the US, and he previously served as interior minister and governor of Herat province during Taliban rule. He was taken into custody in 2002 near the Afghan border in Pakistan and held in the Guantanamo Bay prison for nearly 12 years. He is currently residing in Doha and is a member of the Taliban peace negotiation team.

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