Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wire: New Taliban Leader in Afghanistan was at Guantanamo

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2009 -- Newswire sources reported this afternoon that the Taliban's new top operations officer in southern Afghanistan had been a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the latest example of a freed detainee who took a militant leadership role and a potential complication for the Obama administration's efforts to close the prison.

U.S. authorities turned over the detainee to the Afghan government, which in turn released him, according to Pentagon and CIA officials.

The Associated Press reported that Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, formerly Guantanamo prisoner No. 008, was among 13 Afghan prisoners released to the Afghan government in December 2007. Rasoul is now known as Mullah Abdullah Zakir, a nom de guerre, or war name, that Pentagon and intelligence officials say is used by a Taliban leader who is in charge of operations against U.S. and Afghan forces in southern Afghanistan.

The officials, who spoke anonymously to AP because they are not authorized to release the information, said Rasoul has joined a growing faction of former Guantanamo prisoners who have rejoined militant groups and taken action against U.S. interests.

The Pentagon has said that as many as 60 former detainees have resurfaced on foreign battlefields.

Pentagon and intelligence officials said Rasoul has emerged as a key militant figure in southern Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has ordered thousands of U.S. troops to deploy there to fight resurgent Taliban forces.

One intelligence official told AP that Rasoul's stated mission is to counter the U.S. troop buildup.

AP commented that although the militant detainees who have resurfaced were released under the Bush administration, the revelation underscores the Obama administration's dilemma in moving to close the detention camp at Guantanamo and figuring out what to do with the nearly 250 prisoners who remain there.

(Report from a commercial media source.)

Related: AP - Officials: Afghanistan Taliban leader was at Gitmo

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