Four of the “Taliban 5” released by Obama in 2014 take official roles in Taliban’s government

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AFGHANISTAN – According to reports, the Taliban formally declared the formation of its government on September 7th, and the list of top officials included several well-known names.

Specifically, the four of the five Taliban commanders that former President Barack Obama released in 2014 in exchange for captured U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl.

Back in August, Mohammad Nabi Omari, the fifth member of former President Obama’s “Taliban Five,” was appointed as the Taliban’s governor for Khost province.

On September 7th, Afghanistan’s independent news outlet Tolo News published the whole list of what was coined as the “caretaker government” appointees.

Abdul Haq Wasiq was cited at the Director of Intelligence, Norullah Noori as Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs, Khairullah Khairkhah as Minister of Information and Culture, and Mohammad Fazl as Deputy Defense Minister are the four detainees former President Obama exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban in 2009 after deserting his post.

All of these posts are allegedly “acting” or temporary, but the Taliban did not say how long the “interim” government would remain or how “permanent” ministers would be selected.

Several of the officials named earlier in September, including three of former President Obama’s five exchanged prisoners, formerly served in high-ranking roles within the Taliban prior to their detention in Guantanamo.

Despite the Taliban’s vows to establish an “inclusive” administration, every cabinet official appointed on was a member of the Taliban, and nearly all of them are also members of the majority Pashtun ethnic group within Afghanistan.

Apparently, the Associated Press seemed shocked in reporting on the established Taliban officials when citing that they happened to be all male, a matter that really shouldn’t be shocking considering the Taliban have seemingly been trying to just appease foreign press by feigning this newly adopted push for diversity and inclusion.

One of the first measures taken by the new Taliban administration appears to be the dissolution of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs – once again, bearing evidence that this proclaiming of protecting women’s interests was likely all for show.

In 2014, Obama’s trade of the Taliban Five for Bergdahl was subject to controversy, as the president disregarded guidance from the US military and intelligence community that there were alternative options to releasing the “high-risk” Taliban commanders, and ostensibly violated the law in his haste to finalize the prisoner exchange without consulting Congress.

Several five Taliban members released by former President Obama were extensively complicit in human rights abuses and international crimes, such as: mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and the opium trade. Two of the released prisoners, Wasiq and Khairkhwa, also reportedly have links to al-Qaeda.

Despite purportedly being under the control of the Qatari government after their release from Guantanamo, former President Obama’s declarations that the five would not return to the battlefield against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan became empty promises after their release, as it was reported that some of the five started engaging in “threatening actions” by late 2015.

Come 2018, and all five released prisoners found themselves holding various positions of notoriety within the Taliban.

In fact, one of the Taliban Five, Khairkhah, was among several other prominent Taliban members who met with President Biden’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Moscow to discuss the final arrangements for U.S. withdrawal this past March.

ABC News even quoted Khairkhah in their reporting of the meeting – while also acknowledging he was among the Taliban Five, writing:

“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.”

When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was confronted by Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich in August about Khairkhah being a primary figure associated with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Psaki seemed to brush off reports from media outlets noting Khairkhah’s high-rank within the Taliban and also called out former President Trump for releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners:

“I’d point to the intelligence community to assess the identity of the individual. I know there’s been reporting on it, but that’s not my position to do from here.”

“I would also note that in prior negotiations and commitments made during the Trump administration, there were thousands of individuals who were released, so our focus right now is on, again, not taking the Taliban’s word for it.”

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Female Afghan judge who just escaped country says released Taliban prisoners tried to hunt her down after takeover

(Originally published September 4th, 2021)

AFGHANISTAN – A female Afghan judge who managed to flee the country says that following the takeover by the Taliban, militants she had previously jailed attempted to hunt her down before she escaped the country.

A recent report from Reuters detailed the female judge’s account, with the woman telling the outlet:

“Four or five Taliban members came and asked people in my house: ‘Where is this woman judge?’ These were people who I had put in jail.”

This former Afghan judge, who is now safe in Europe after being able to successfully evacuate the country from Kabul, is among one of roughly 250 female judges that worked in Afghanistan. The outlet reports that while some were able to flee the country, many remained left behind under the Taliban’s rule.

Many of these female judges in Afghanistan tried fleeing the country while evacuations were taking place in August but were unable to.

With the Taliban having freed prisoners all over the country, the former Afghan judge in Europe says those she’s been in contact with who previously served as judges are “in danger”:

“Their messages are of fear and complete terror. They tell me if they do not get rescued their lives are in direct danger.”

Afghan human rights activist Horia Mosadiq says that it’s not just former female judges that are at risk in Afghanistan while under the Taliban’s rule, but thousands of other women who engaged in various human rights efforts within the country.

British Justice Minister Robert Buckland commented on the matter, noting that they were able to safely evacuate nine former judges in Afghanistan and are actively trying to create a safe passage to Europe for other “very vulnerable people”:

“A lot of these judges were responsible for administering the rule of law and quite rightly they are fearful about the consequences that could now face them with the rise of the Taliban.”

Sarah Kay, a Belfast-based human rights lawyer and member of the Atlas Women network of international lawyers who is part of the online group dubbed as the “digital Dunkirk” had the following to say about the female judges left behind in Afghanistan: 

“Governments had zero interest in evacuating people that were not their own nationals.”

Patricia Whalen, an America-based judge who helped train female Afghan judges abroad, is also assisting with finding a way to get these women in Afghanistan safely evacuated:

“The responsibility that we bear is almost unbearable at the moment because we are one of the few people taking responsibility for this group.”

Over the past month, the Taliban have sworn that they’ll uphold the rights of women “within the limits of Islam,” according to a spokesperson for the outfit.

The Biden administration has affirmed that in the event the Taliban go back on their pledges regarding the treatment of Afghan citizens, then some sort of action will be taken to hold the Taliban accountable.

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‘We’re in charge now’: Photo appears to show Taliban posing alongside CT State Trooper hat

(Originally published September 2nd, 2021)

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Pictures of a Taliban leader and his troops posing for photos with their guns at the former Afghan National Police Academy in Kabul were published in a UK newspaper – which a certain hat visible in one of the photos is causing some controversy.

A Connecticut State Trooper’s hat, which had been given to Afghan police trainees by the Americans who trained them previously, was conspicuously exhibited on the desk in front of the Taliban militants in pictures taken on August 24th, according to The Sun.

According to the New York Post, the photo showed Taliban Commander Qasi Ali seated behind a desk surrounded by armed Taliban soldiers in a training center formerly used by United States-led NATO forces on the eastern outskirts of Kabul.

While speaking with The Sun, Ali stated:

“Look at this office. We haven’t looted anything.”

Next to the Connecticut State Trooper’s hat was a British police helmet that was also gifted to the Afghan police trainees under similar circumstances to that of the trooper hat.

According to the New Haven Register, Connecticut State Police spokesman Brian Foley stated that hundreds of active and former Connecticut state troopers have served in the military abroad, and that exchanging police hats and patches is a customary gesture of confidence and respect:

“While it is impossible to definitively determine, it is plausible and we believe that a retired trooper of the rank of lieutenant or higher, deployed overseas, exchanged the [state police] hat for this honorable purpose.”

While the image of the Taliban posing for a photo in front of something emblematic of the Connecticut State Troopers is unsettling, Foley expressed his gratitude for those who both served abroad and with the state troopers:

“We are proud of the military service of our troopers both active and retired and have a deep appreciation of the sacrifices they have all made.”

The Taliban commander was trying to showcase to The Sun that he and his troops had not plundered the facility, which still had a fully functional office with computers. Even the CCTV, according to Ali, was still fully operational.

Ali also claimed to have contacted some of the civilian personnel who previously worked at the training center, including cooks and electricians, and asked them to return to work.

With Americans still stranded in Afghanistan after the United States completed their military withdrawal, legitimate concerns loom on what may happen to those Americans abroad while under the rule of the Taliban. Ali claims that these Americans have nothing to worry about:

“I don’t know why people are scared. The Taliban have brought security.”

Only time will tell whether or not Ali’s words bear any semblance of reality.

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