Former Gitmo detainee turned Taliban leader threatens Afghan elders

A former Guantanamo detainee who is currently a senior Taliban leader has threatened to kill tribal elders cooperating with Coalition forces and the Afghan government. According to Newsweek, Abdul Rauf Khadim, who was transferred from Gitmo to Afghanistan in 2007, authored a “short handwritten note” on “the letterhead of Mullah Mohammed Omar’s defunct Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

The note, which was shown to Newsweek, reads: “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.”

Khadim’s note is part of the Taliban’s campaign to attack and threaten any Afghans cooperating with US-led forces. The Taliban recently issued a new code of conduct that sanctions attacks on Afghan civilians who work with the Afghan government or coalition forces. In June, NATO claimed to have recovered a directive from Mullah Omar, who also sanctioned attacks on civilians cooperating with the Taliban’s enemies. [See LWJ report, Mullah Omar orders Taliban to attack civilians, Afghan women.]

Two of Mullah Omar’s top leaders are former Gitmo detainees

The career of Abdul Rauf Khadim (whose internment serial number at Gitmo was 108) is intertwined with that of another former Guantanamo detainee, Mullah Abdullah Zakir (internment serial number 8). Both men were detained at Gitmo for several years and then transferred together, along with 11 other Gitmo detainees, to Afghanistan on Dec. 12, 2007.

Khadim escaped Afghan custody last year, according to Newsweek. He then quickly rejoined the Taliban’s ranks. Zakir had already rejoined the Taliban, and he became its surge commander in southern Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, The Taliban’s surge commander was Gitmo detainee, for more information on Zakir.]

Earlier this year, Khadim and Zakir were reportedly detained together by Pakistani officials and then released in short order. Multiple press outlets have reported that the two have been named to the Taliban’s Quetta Shura Council – that is, Mullah Omar’s inner circle. Some accounts have suggested that Khadim is the head of the Quetta Shura, but it is not clear if that is true, as other accounts say that another Taliban leader holds that position. (Leadership within the Quetta Shura is also known to rotate.)

Still, Khadim and Zakir are consistently reported to be among Mullah Omar’s top leaders.

Khadim claimed to be a low-level conscript

During two hearings at Guantanamo, Khadim claimed to be a low-level conscript who was forced to serve the Taliban. “I am not a member of the Taliban,” Khadim said during his combatant status review tribunal (CSRT). During his administrative review board (ARB) hearing, Khadim also denied receiving any weapons training or fighting for the Taliban. He said that he had merely served food from a nearby bakery to the Taliban’s soldiers.

US military officials found otherwise. In a memo prepared for his CSRT, the US military alleged that Khadim “joined the Taliban in 1998,” “worked for the Taliban military,” and “fought for the Taliban.” A memo prepared for Khadim’s ARB hearing notes that he “was identified as Mullah Abdul Rauf, a Taliban troop commander.”

Khadim denied all of these allegations. But he also claimed, “I wish there was a way I could prove to you that I will not be a danger anymore.”

“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 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.”

During questioning by a member of his review board, 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.”

Instead of farming the land or serving Karzai’s government, however, Abdul Rauf Khadim is now a senior Taliban leader who threatens the Taliban’s opposition.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Chris says:

    Is it to SciFi to wish that we implantate some kind of radio chip in the detaines to find them? Or just follow them?

  • Nic says:

    Just another example of how good of an idea closing Gitmo was.

  • madashell59 says:

    No it is not. However, that would not be the PR thing to do. just like letting them out of Gitmo. Anti-war types keep on bringing up that Gitmo resembles a Nazi concentration camp which is completely false. Yes it is a prisoner of war camp where they keep prisoners of war. And most prisoners of war have family and a livelihood. That does not make them our ally.
    Here is a question Mr. Roggio: Does the US have any prisoner of war camps in Afghanistan like we had in Iraq? IF not it is time. Round em up boys.


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