In 2014, then-President Barack Obama infamously exchanged five top Taliban commanders detained at Guantanamo Bay for the release of former U.S. Army Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan and later convicted for desertion.
Now, seven years later, reports indicate that four of those five former detainees have just been appointed to top positions in the Taliban regime that has taken over Afghanistan in the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.
From detainees to top jobs
It was Afghan media outlet TOLOnews that first reported on the purportedly “interim caretaker government” recently established by the Taliban as it consolidates its grip on Kabul.
The network listed off the names and positions of 33 individuals who will now serve in a variety of administrative and ministerial roles for the organization, ostensibly on an “acting” basis.
Of those 33 named individuals, Fox News reports that four of them — Khairullah Khairkhwa, Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Mohammad Fazl — had all previously been captured by U.S. forces, detained at Guantanamo, and then released by Obama in the much-criticized exchange for Bergdahl.
But wait, there’s more
Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, took to Twitter to decry the outrageous turn of events, which some had warned of back when Obama first made the move.
1. It appears that 4 of the 5 ex-Guantanamo detainees exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl in 2014 have senior positions in the Taliban’s resurrected Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. https://t.co/OT6LATlaXc
— Thomas Joscelyn (@thomasjoscelyn) September 7, 2021
Jocelyn also noted in a thread of tweets that the fifth of Obama’s released detainees, Mohammad Nabi Omari, who was not installed in the Taliban’s Cabinet, is nonetheless in a prominent position of power as the new governor of the Afghan province of Khost.
Moving up the ranks
As for the four others, it appears they have reprised roles similar to ones they held before the Taliban was toppled by U.S. forces following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American soil.
The attack was found to have been perpetrated by al-Qaida, a terror group that received safe harbor in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.
According to Fox, “Khairkhwa would serve as acting minister for information and culture, Noori would serve as acting minister of borders and tribal affairs, Wasiq would serve as acting director of intelligence, and Fazl would serve as deputy defense minister.”
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Taliban-allied militant Haqqani Network who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, is now the acting interior minister of the new Taliban regime, reports note.