Former Gitmo inmate rising in Taliban ranks

This case must be really bad for the AP of all sources to have to report that its otherwise generally pastel-colored reports of Gtimo detainees (just regular guys in the wrong place at the wrong time etc.) may have "gilded the lily" a bit, although I suppose some will no doubt argue that the mean treatment by the ever evil US at Gitmo (and of course pre 9/11) caused it.

Former Gitmo inmate rising in Taliban ranks

The Associated Press
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — A man who was freed from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after he claimed he only wanted to go home and help his family is now a senior commander running Taliban resistance to the U.S.-led offensive in southern Afghanistan, two senior Afghan intelligence officials say.

Abdul Qayyum is also seen as a leading candidate to be the next No. 2 in the Afghan Taliban hierarchy, said the officials, interviewed last week by the Associated Press.

The officials were interviewed in Helmand province, where the Taliban controls several districts, and spoke on condition of anonymity lest they attract the militia's attention.

Abdul Rauf, another former Guantanamo prisoner, is Qayyum's aide in plotting attacks on Afghan and international forces, the Afghan intelligence officials said. Rauf, who told his U.S. interrogators that he had only loose connections to the Taliban, spent time in an Afghan jail before being freed last year. He has rejoined the Taliban, they said.

Qayyum is about 36 and close to the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the officials said. He has been tapped as a candidate to replace the militia's second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was among several Taliban leaders arrested recently in Pakistan.

The officials said Qayyum was given charge of the military campaign in the south about 14 months ago. He managed the battle for Marjah, where NATO troops are flushing out remaining militants, they said.

"He's smart, and he is brutal," said Abdul Razik, a former governor of Kajaki who said he knows Qayyum's family. "He will withdraw his soldiers to fight another day," he said, referring to the Marjah campaign.

A Taliban commander in the 1990s who was notorious for brutality and summary executions, Qayyum was captured in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion and taken to Guantanamo.

According to hearing transcripts, he said he had been conscripted by the Taliban but left at the first opportunity. "I want to go back home and join my family and work in my land and help my family," he said.

In December 2007, he was among 13 Afghan prisoners released to the Afghan government, which put him in prison.

A year later, he was set free, despite warnings he would return to the Taliban, said Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, former governor of Helmand province.

Like Qayyum, Rauf is from Helmand province. During the Taliban's rule, which ended in 2001, Rauf was a corps commander in the western province of Herat and in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, Akhundzada said.

Afghanistan's deputy attorney general, Faqir Ahmed Faqiryar, said Qayyum went before an Afghan court, which ruled he had served his time. He moved on to Quetta, from where he oversees four southern provinces: Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul, said Sharifuddin, a former Taliban official who, like many Afghans, goes by one name.

"From his houses in Quetta, he appoints the (Taliban) governors, the district governors," Sharifuddin said. "Nothing happens in these provinces without his approval."

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