Taliban appoints former Guantanamo Bay detainee released under Obama to leadership post in Afghanistan

Taliban appoints former Guantanamo Bay detainee released under Obama to leadership post in Afghanistan

August 25, 2021

Pentagon officials hold a briefing as Afghanistan evacuation deadline approaches

The Taliban announced the appointment of Mohammad Nabi Omari, a former Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (GTMO) detainee who has close ties to al Qaeda, to governor of the Khost Province in Afghanistan, days after the Islamic military group took over the country and is establishing a government.

According to congressional records, Omari was part of a five prisoner trade during the Obama administration in 2014 in exchange for captured American Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for years after walking off a U.S. military base in 2009. The Taliban prisoners freed from GTMO, also known as the “Taliban Five,” joined the group’s political office in Qatar after release, according to a statement from a Taliban spokesperson at the time. 

According to declassified documents, all five released prisoners were senior Taliban leaders and Omari specifically held the role of Taliban communications chief and border chief.

In a 2014 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., slammed the Obama administration for releasing the “Taliban Dream Team.” “They have American blood on their hands and surely as night follows day they will return to the fight. In effect, we released the ‘Taliban Dream Team.'”

Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tweeted Tuesday that Omari is a leader of the Haqqani network, a Sunni Islamist militant organization, a former GTMO detainee and has “close ties to [al] Qaeda.” 

Omari, along with other members of the Taliban Five, also appeared to be involved in the Trump administration’s 2020 negotiations for Afghan peace. 

Khost Province, which will be under Omari’s rule, includes Khost, the largest city in the southeastern part of the country, and borders neighboring Pakistan. The Taliban has been amassing power and control over Afghanistan since the rapid withdrawal of U.S.-led NATO forces in the country. 

The U.S. is still working to evacuate Americans and Afghan partners before the Aug. 31 deadline agreed to by the Taliban for complete withdrawal. 

The Department of Defense did not provide a statement in response to Fox News’ request for comment regarding Omari’s GTMO detainment and release.

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