Pentagon spokesman portrays Guantanamo recidivism as a good thing

Yesterday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby cast a positive light on jihadists from the Taliban and al Qaeda who have been released from Guantanamo and have returned to wage jihad. The topic came up in the discussion of an airstrike that killed Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, a senior Taliban commander who was detained at Guantanamo from 2001 to 2007, released to Afghan custody and freed in 2009, and returned to the Taliban shortly afterward to assume the role of a senior military commander up until his defection to the Islamic State earlier this year. Below is the exchange, from the Pentagon’s transcript:

Q: Why was he released?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Joe, I don’t have the records on this guy from — from Guantanamo Bay.

Yes, he was a detainee. He was released in 2007. He was released to Kabul.

The other thing that we’ve said — and this is another great example, because we had a long, you know, discussion not too long ago about the — the recidivism and particularly the issue of this — this one individual who reengaged there in Qatar, and we said that they return to the battlefield and to the fight at their own peril. Mr. Kadim is proof of that.

Kirby’s statement that Khadim’s death should be viewed as a positive is cold comfort to the hundreds of Afghans, Americans, and Coalition personnel who were killed while Khadim commanded forces in southern Afghanistan. The jihadist was able to operate for more than six years as a top level Taliban commander and has the blood of thousands on his hands.

Khadim and Mullah Zakir, another Guantanamo alum (who is still alive; he “resigned due to ill health,” according to the Taliban) were responsible for implementing the Taliban’s counter-surge strategy. While the the jihadist group failed to halt Coalition and Afghan forces’ gains in the south from 2009 to 2011 (gains which are now melting away), at least 875 Coalition members were killed during the fighting in Kandahar (273 killed) and Helmand (602 killed) during that time period, according to iCasualties (note, data on Coalition members killed by province after 2011 is not available on the iCasualties website). The number of Afghan security personnel and civilians killed in Kandahar and Helmand by the Taliban during that timeframe is not available, but is likely in the thousands.

Despite this, Kirby doubles down and says Guantanamo should be closed, which means even more jihadists will be freed.

Q: After seeing such example, like former Guantanamo detainee who was released and went back to the — to work with the Taliban, is the Pentagon still convinced that Guantanamo should be closed?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes. The Pentagon’s position is that the detainee facility should be closed. Secretary Hagel has made that clear on any number of occasions. There’s no change to that.

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

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  • mike merlo says:

    Beyond convoluted & border line insanity. This is some of the most bizarre ‘logic’ I’ve heard to date & coming from a serving US Admiral no less. So I’d be curious to know what constitutes a “Bad Example?”

  • Scott J. says:

    It seems like over the years you have reported on various AQ and taliban members who have been released from custody from GITMO or prison in Afghanistan who have returned to jihad or who have been killed after their release.
    It would be an interesting study to catalog all these known former detainees with an update as to their status; i.e., killed, active, inactive, unknown.

  • HonestAbe says:

    This is not a black & white issue, as closing Guantanamo does not equate to freeing jihadis. The jihadis can (and should) be tried in Federal courts for war crimes.
    At the end of the day, torture (and a lot of it) occurred at Gitmo. History cannot be rewritten and if America wants to truly be able to say it does not torture, Gitmo should be closed. The alternative of keeping it open indefinitely, or keeping it open until all the prisoners are dead is a wasteful proposition.
    There is also a lot of truth to claims that Gitmo is being used a jihadi recruitment tool. Holding 120 odd jihadis still in Gitmo for the next 10 years will probably inspire the recruitment of 12,000 more. It’s time to break that chain and America should not need to stoop to the barbaric actions of nutjobs.

  • Gene Levitzky says:

    What’s the alternative? Hold people (some of whom are innocent) indefinitely and without trial?

  • Incredible!
    Kirby himself is a headquarters operator. His bio’s available at He’s only had one tour of traditional naval sea duty, his first. Since then, his butt has been shaped by its seating accommodations, or vice versa.
    I suspect he’s far-disconnected from the realities of war – so far that he no longer cares.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Why not just execute them? I’m not a lawyer, but it should be justified. Maybe the US has to put them up to a military tribunal first. Frankly, some of the spokes persons for the current administration have all the credibility of Baghdad Bob, remember him?

  • J House says:

    Perhaps Kirby is hinting that we chipped him, found him, fixed him and took him out.
    I’d prefer that to indefinite detention in Cuba.

  • DR says:

    Execute is a word the progs can’t handle so use the preferred term of exterminate as we are not dealing with fellow human beings here but rather something akin to cockroaches. The “GITMO as recruiting tool is tired old prog nonsense”. I would applaud the military leader who refused the orders from this treasonous administration to release any of these guys unless they were implanted with a C-4 based Lojack device.

  • Knighthawk says:

    ” Frankly, some of the spokes persons for the current administration have all the credibility of Baghdad Bob, remember him?”

    LOL. How could anyone forget, and sadly that comparison doesn’t seem all that far off these days.

  • IK says:

    The amazing thing about high ranking officers is when they were LT’s, probably all of them would have jumped on a grenade to save the lives of fellow troopers.
    Then, 25 years later, they won’t tell the truth if it means the end of the careers.
    What happens to them over time? Do they get turned into spineless yes men? Or were they always like that, and those are the ones who make it to General or Admiral?
    Back to the comment, that’s like a warden saying:
    “Well, it’s good that a bunch of inmates escaped. Now we may be able to kill them”.

  • Civdiv says:

    While I did not see the actual video associated with this spokesman’s interview, from what I am seeing here this seems to be much ado about nothing. The spokesman does not appear to be happy about the releases, just happy that the guy got tracked down and killed when he became a recidivist. He is applauding our ability to hunt these folks down and kill them, not that they got released. Sure, we would like to bury them all in some supermax but the political winds (and the Supreme Court Decisions) have made this impossible. So we do what our law tells us we have to do; release them. And then if they go back to their aberrant ways we hunt them down and kill them. Not the best strategy but one imposed on us by our system of western legal prudence.

  • jeff g. says:

    Are you insane?


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