Taliban appoints 5 former Guantanamo prisoners to Qatar office

Kabul: The Taliban said on Tuesday that it has deployed five members freed in 2015 from the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay to its political office in Qatar.

The five were freed in exchange for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl of the US military who had been captured by the Taliban five years earlier. The five had been living in Qatar since then under restrictions on them travelling to the war zone, Efe news reported.

“We confirm that Mullah Muhammad Fazel Mazlum, Mullah Noorullah Noori, Mullah Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa and Maulavi Muhammad Nabi Omari have been appointed as members of the Qatar political office,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Efe news.

Another Taliban member said the group’s leader Haibatullah himself ordered the appointment of the “Taliban Five” — as the ex-prisoners are known — a decision that came two weeks after US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met members of the Taliban’s Qatar office.

The five new appointees served in high-ranking positions in the Taliban: Fazel Mazlum was the Deputy Defence Minister during Taliban rule (1996-2001), Noorullah Noori served as Governor of Balkh province, Abdul Haq Wasiq was deputy intelligence chief, Khairullah Khairkhwa was the Interior Minister and Nabi Omari worked in the military in late 1990s.

Their appointment came after the Taliban’s political head met Khalilzad in Qatar on October 12 to discuss the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict, the first such known encounter between the two sides.

The dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government until now has been limited to just one official meeting in July 2015 although the talks were suspended after Afghanistan revealed that Mullah Omar, the founder of the insurgent group, had died in 2013.

Since then the insurgents have insisted on negotiating with the US, which has a presence in the country through the NATO training and advising mission for Afghan troops as well as anti-terrorist operations.