Who is Khairullah Khairkhwa? Barack Obama freed dangerous Taliban leader from Gitmo in 2014

The notorious Taliban fighters released from Gitmo made contacts with active militants in Afghanistan soon after gaining their freedom


                            Who is Khairullah Khairkhwa? Barack Obama freed dangerous Taliban leader from Gitmo in 2014
In 2014, former President Barack Obama released five Taliban commanders from the Guantanamo Bay prison, one of them was Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa (Department of Defense/JTF-GTMO, Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In 2014, former President Barack Obama released five Taliban commanders from the Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for an American deserter. Despite his assurances that the combatants would be transferred to Qatar and kept from causing any harm to Afghanistan, they were later left free to engineer the hostile takeover of Kabul on Sunday, August 15.

The notorious Taliban fighters made contacts with active militants in Afghanistan soon after gaining their freedom and pledged to return to fight Americans in the war-torn country. According to the New York Post, the Obama administration turned a blind eye to disturbing intelligence reports, giving the freed detainees enough time to use Qatar as a base to form a regime in exile.

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Who is Khairulla Khairkhwa?

The five commanders freed from Gitmo were recognized by Western diplomats as official representatives of the Taliban during "peace" talks earlier this year. One of them, Khairullah Khairkhwa, notably sat across the table from President Biden's envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Moscow. Khairkhwa was reportedly part of the official Taliban delegation that negotiated the final terms of the withdrawal of US troops. The discussions arguably paved the way for the Taliban to assume power once again after two decades. “I started jihad to remove foreign forces from my country and establish an Islamic government, and jihad will continue until we reach that goal through a political agreement,” Khairkhwa reportedly said at the summit.

Zalmay Khalilzad, special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation at the State Department, testifies in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. policy in Afghanistan on Capitol Hill, April 27, 2021, in Washington, DC (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick-Pool/Getty Images)

According to The Post, Khairkhwa is the mastermind of the regime change in Kabul. He was released from Gitmo by the Obama administration despite the Pentagon classifying him as "too dangerous to release."

Despite showing no signs of remorse or rehabilitation inside Gitmo, Khairkhwa managed to convince the Biden administration earlier this year that the Taliban would not launch a spring military offensive if the president committed to withdrawing all remaining American troops. Furthermore, he promised not to retaliate against Afghans who worked with the US military or the US-backed government in Kabul. Reportedly, special envoy Khalilzad convinced the White House that the government under erstwhile President Ashraf Ghani would not collapse due to a potential Taliban takeover. 

Displaced Afghans reach out for aid from a local Muslim organization at a makeshift IDP camp on August 10, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)

Khairkhwa was formerly the Taliban’s minister of interior in Afghanistan, where he enforced brutal punishments, including beheadings and stonings. He was arrested in Pakistan after 9/11 and sent to Gitmo in 2002. At the time, the Pentagon accused him of closely associating with Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda henchmen.

President Joe Biden gestures as he gives remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on August 16, 2021, in Washington, DC (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Obama, however, sprung Khairkhwa and four others of the Taliban top brass from prison twelve years later. He agreed to the release in exchange for the Taliban releasing disgraced US Army Sgt Robert “Bowe” Bergdahl, who was captured after deserting his post in Afghanistan. According to the New York Post, Khairkhwa and his fellow parolees were the only “forever prisoners” released from custody without being cleared by the Gitmo parole board.

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