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GORDON: The peril lurking in trusting the Taliban
Guantanamo prisoners should have no place in a prisoner swap
In his rush to pull out of Afghanistan, close Guantanamo and declare the fight against “violent extremists” over, President Obama is again pressing for Taliban peace talks just days after releasing a complete list of Gitmo detainees, finally identifying 46 of 166 men held in indefinite detention.
Though his broader strategy is highly suspect, the timing is impeccable. Orchestrating peace with the Taliban and efforts to dismantle indefinite detention at Gitmo naturally go hand in hand.
While Team Obama isn’t known for transparency, it’s good to see a sliver of openness, represented by the release of the 46-man roster.
Why is that? Any serious people who view the 46 rap sheets available on the Internet finally will understand why these men are so dangerous, why trying them in our courts under existing laws and rules of evidence won’t work, and how they have killed thousands of people and will kill again if released.
Who are these men in indefinite detention, and how dangerous are they?
Mid-senior-level leaders of the Taliban and al Qaeda, bodyguards to Osama bin Laden, trainers in explosives and suicide missions, terrorist-cell recruiters and spiritual advisers, and those who still swear to kill Americans. Though most are from Afghanistan and Yemen, 10 are from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait, Morocco, Somalia and Kenya.
During the latest round of stalled peace talks with the Taliban in early 2012, one sticking point was the release of five Gitmo detainees who are on the indefinite-detention list.
Collectively responsible for killing thousands of people, including U.S. troops and coalition forces, they are a who’s who of Taliban leaders. Among them are Mullah Mohammed Fazl, former Taliban deputy minister of defense, and Khairullah Said Wali Khairkwah, former governor of Herat, Afghanistan. Others may include Mullah Norallah Nuri, former governor of Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan; Abdul Haq Wasiq, former Taliban deputy minister of intelligence; and Muhammad Rahim, a top facilitator and confidant to bin Laden.
Yet how can anyone trust a radical Islamic terrorist organization that enabled the al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and constituted one of history’s most barbaric regimes?
Though the Taliban’s atrocities while ruling Afghanistan were on a smaller scale than those perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the beheadings, commonplace acid and stoning attacks on women and girls, “infidels” and anyone else who got in their way was nothing short of medieval. Why aren’t the so-called human rights nongovernmental organizations that are trying to free Gitmo detainees doing more to protest the Taliban instead?
Negotiating with the Taliban is pure folly and merely shows weakness from the Obama administration.
Apart from Afghans, more than half of the 46 in Gitmo’s indefinite detention are Yemenis. Many of them formed the nucleus of the “Dirty 30,” bin Laden’s elite bodyguards from his 55th Arab Brigade in Afghanistan who ultimately facilitated his escape from Tora Bora. With tribal and some family ties directly to bin Laden, they are among Gitmo’s most die-hard fanatics committed to martyrdom.
Assorted others include two senior members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, allies of those who attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, two Kuwaitis who were al Qaeda recruiters and couriers and were part of a London cell, three Saudis who pledged to rejoin the fight, a Moroccan al Qaeda subcommander and explosives specialist, a Somali who says he will fight to the death for his al Qaeda affiliate, and a Kenyan implicated in the bombing of the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa.
Mr. Obama has stated his rationale for closing Gitmo: “I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and strengthening our enemies.” That statement was closer to the truth in 2008 when he actively contributed to the false narrative on Gitmo during the presidential campaign.
Today, Mr. Obama is conveniently leaving out of the narrative the likelihood that if Gitmo is closed and detainees are moved to the U.S. mainland as he is fighting hard to accomplish, left-wing activist judges will order the release of those 46 detainees and probably others. Doing so would allow them to make a philosophical point based on their personal interpretation of constitutional rights and the “rule of law.”
It’s well past time for Team Obama to start focusing on how to protect Americans, not the Taliban and Gitmo detainees. The American people must demand it — our safety and security hang in the balance.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy commander and former Pentagon spokesman who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration.
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