Khairullah Khairkhwa

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Khairullah Khairkhwa
Khirullah Khairkhwa.jpg
In this identity portrait Khairullah Khairkhwa wears the tan uniform issued to compliant captives while detained at Guantanamo Bay.
Minister of the Interior
In office
Personal details
Kandahar, Afghanistan
Political partyTaliban
Military service
AllegianceFlag of Taliban.svg Taliban
Years of service1994-2001
Battles/warsAfghan civil war
War in Afghanistan

Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa is a Taliban official and former governor of Herat. He was held in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba.[2] He was released in late May 2014 in a prisoner exchange that involved Bowe Bergdahl and the Taliban five.[3] Press reports have referred to him as "Mullah" and "Maulavi", two different honorifics for referring to senior Muslim clerics.[4][5][6][7]

Claims from analysts at Guantanamo that Khairkhwa was directly associated with Osama Bin Laden and Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Muhammad Omar have been widely repeated.[8] Kate Clark has criticized her fellow journalists for uncritically repeating U.S. claims that were largely based on unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo, or on confessions and denunciations coerced through torture and other extreme interrogation techniques.[9]

Early life[edit]

American intelligence analysts estimate that Khairkhwa was born in 1967 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He is a Popalzai from Arghestan in Kandahar province.[10] He studied religious topics at the Haqqaniya and Akhora Khattak madrassas in Pakistan, together with other influential Taliban leaders.[10]

He held various government posts before the Taliban took over Afghanistan, including a police official in Kabul, and finally, Governor of Herat Province.[11][12]

Khirullah was one of the original Taliban members who launched the movement in 1994.[10]

Khairullah Khairkhwah was the Minister of the Interior under Taliban rule in 1997 and 1998. The Deputy Minister was Mohammad Khaksar.

Some reports have said he had been the Taliban's deputy minister of the interior, interim minister of the interior, the minister of the interior, and the Minister of Information.[4][6] Khirullah was also to serve as the Taliban's Minister of Foreign Affairs spokesman, giving interviews to the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of America.

Kate Clark, then of the BBC News, interviewed Khairkhwa in September 2000.[9] Clark wrote that Khairkhwa was comfortable conversing in the Dari language when most Taliban leaders, all members of Afghanistan's Pashtun ethnic group, would only speak in the Pashtun language. She wrote that under Khairkhwa, she was allowed to film openly in Herat, even though doing so was disallowed under Taliban law. She wrote that under Khairkhwa, Afghan women felt comfortable approaching her, and speaking with her, something that never happened in other regions of Afghanistan.

According to journalist Mark Mazzetti, in February 2002, Khairkhwa and alleged CIA agent Ahmed Wali Karzai discussed the possibility of Khairkhwa surrendering and informing for the CIA. However, the deal broke down and Khairkhwa fled for Pakistan; the CIA learned of his flight through a communications intercept and the U.S. military dispatched a helicopter-borne commando team to capture Khairkhwa. However, the CIA hoped to allow the Pakistanis to recruit or capture Khairkhwa, which would also boost U.S.-Pakistan relations. Thus, the CIA recalled the drone following Khairkhwa's truck and a second drone pinpointed a different truck, whose innocent occupants were captured and later released. Khairkhwa successfully crossed into Pakistan at Spin Boldak, but after further talks over informing broke down, Khairkhwa was arrested by the Pakistanis in Chaman, transferred to the CIA in Quetta, and then sent to Guantanamo.[13]

Khirullah Khairkhwa arrived at Guantanamo on May 1, 2002, and had been held there for 12 years.[14][15][16]

In early 2011, President Hamid Karzai demanded his release and Hekmat Karzai, the director of the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies in Kabul said "His release will be influential to the peace process," and that "Mr Khairkhwa is well respected amongst the Taliban and was considered a moderate by those who knew him".[17][18]

Official status reviews[edit]

Originally, the Bush Presidency asserted that captives apprehended in the "war on terror" were not covered by the Geneva Conventions and could be held indefinitely without charge and without an open and transparent review of the justifications for their detention.[19] In 2004, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Rasul v. Bush, that Guantanamo captives were entitled to being informed of the allegations justifying their detention and were entitled to try to refute them.

Office for the Administrative Review of Detained Enemy Combatants[edit]

Combatant Status Review Tribunals were held in a 3x5 meter trailer where the captive sat with his hands and feet shackled to a bolt in the floor.[20][21]

Following the Supreme Court's ruling. the Department of Defense set up the Office for the Administrative Review of Detained Enemy Combatants.[19][22]

Scholars at the Brookings Institution, led by Benjamin Wittes, listed the captives still held in Guantanamo in December 200, according to whether their detention was justified by certain common allegations:[23]

  • Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa was listed as one of the captives who the military alleges were members of either al Qaeda or the Taliban and associated with the other group.[23]
  • Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa was listed as one of the captives who "The military alleges ... fought for the Taliban."[23]
  • Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa was listed as one of the captives who was a member of the Taliban leadership.[23]
  • Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa was listed as one of "36 [captives who] openly admit either membership or significant association with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or some other group the government considers militarily hostile to the United States."[23]
  • Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa was listed as one of the captives who had admitted "being [a] Taliban leader."[23]

Joint Review Task Force[edit]

On January 21, 2009, the day he was inaugurated, United States President Barack Obama issued three Executive orders related to the detention of individuals in Guantanamo.[24][25][26][27] He put in place a new review system composed of officials from six departments, where the OARDEC reviews were conducted entirely by the Department of Defense. When it reported back a year later, the Joint Review Task Force classified some individuals as too dangerous to be transferred from Guantanamo. On April 9, 2013, that document was made public after a Freedom of Information Act request.[28] Khairullah Khairkhwa was one of the 71 individuals deemed too innocent to charge but too dangerous to release. Obama said those deemed too innocent to charge but too dangerous to release would start to receive reviews from a Periodic Review Board.

Periodic Review Board[edit]

The first review wasn't convened until November 20, 2013.[29] Khairkhwa and the other four members of the Taliban Five are the only "forever prisoners" to be released without being cleared by a review.[30]

Release negotiations[edit]

The Afghanistan High Peace Council called for his release in 2011.[31]

Throughout the fall of 2011 and the winter of 2012, the United States conducted peace negotiations with the Taliban and widely leaked that a key sticking point was the ongoing detention of Khairkhwa and four other senior Taliban, Norullah Noori, Mohammed Fazl, Abdul Haq Wasiq.[32][33][34][35] Negotiations hinged on a proposal to send the five men directly to Doha, Qatar, where they would be allowed to set up an official office for the Taliban.

In March 2012, it was reported that Ibrahim Spinzada, described as "Karzai's top aide" had spoken with the five men in Guantanamo earlier that month and had secured their agreement to be transferred to Qatar.[35] Karzai, who had initially opposed the transfer, then reportedly backed the plan.


Khairkhwa and the other four members of the Taliban five were flown to Qatar and released on June 1, 2014. Simultaneously, U.S. soldier and deserter Bowe Bergdahl was released in eastern Afghanistan. Khairkhwa was required to spend the next year in Qatar, a condition of his and the other Taliban members, release.[36]

In 2015, CNN reported that Khairkhwa had recommenced terrorist activity after his release in exchange for Bergdahl.[37]


  1. ^ Deobandi Islam: The Religion of the Taliban U. S. Navy Chaplain Corps, 15 October 2001
  2. ^ "List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
  3. ^ Dorell, Oren (May 31, 2014). "U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl freed in Afghanistan". USA Today. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b Tayler, Letta (December 31, 2001). "Blood Feud in Afghanistan". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  5. ^ "Afghanistan's Taliban, opposition both claim gains". CNN. July 31, 1997. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b Klasra, Kaswar (January 26, 2010). "UN seeks to drop some Taliban leaders". The Nation. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Eight dead in Afghan blast". BBC News. May 4, 2001. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  8. ^ Eyder Peralta (31 May 2014). "Who Are The 5 Guantanamo Detainees In Prisoner Swap? – Nation & World News". Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  9. ^ a b Kate Clark (2012-03-09). "Releasing the Guantanamo Five? 1: Biographies of the Prisoners (amended)". The Afghan Analysts Network. Archived from the original on 2015-05-21. Retrieved 2015-07-05. Unlike many Taleban, he was comfortable speaking to a foreigner and, very unusually, happy to be interviewed in Persian (most Taleban would only speak Pashto at the time). Herat, where he was the governor, was noticeably more relaxed than Kabul, Mazar or Kandahar: I filmed openly in the city (then an illegal act), the economy was reasonably buoyant and women came up to chat – a very rare occurrence.
  10. ^ a b c Jeffrey Dressler; Isaac Hock (6 April 2012). "Releasng Taliban detainees: A misguided path to peace" (PDF). Understanding War. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  11. ^ "Taliban blames foes of killing mine-clearers". Independent Online. 2000-08-07. The Taliban Governor in the province, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, has blamed the opposition Northern Alliance for the attack, saying the assailants have been arrested. The oppositions reaction was not immediately available.
  12. ^ "Red Cross: Families ID detainees in list". USA Today. 2006-04-20.
  13. ^ Mazzetti, Mark (2014). The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth. New York: Penguin. pp. 21–23. ISBN 978-0-14-3125013.
  14. ^ JTF-GTMO (2007-03-16). "Measurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba". Department of Defense. Archived from the original on 2008-12-22. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  15. ^ "Measurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (ordered and consolidated version)". Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, from DoD data. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-12-21.
  16. ^ Margot Williams (2008-11-03). "Guantanamo Docket: Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-30.
  17. ^ Nordland, Rod (2011-02-08). "Karzai Calls for Release of Taliban Official From Guantánamo". The New York Times.
  18. ^ "Rebranding the Taliban". Al Jazeera. 2011-03-14. Archived from the original on 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2012-03-12. On March 28, the Federal District Court in Washington, DC, will hear a case on behalf of Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former high-ranking Taliban official who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for the past eight years.
  19. ^ a b "U.S. military reviews 'enemy combatant' use". USA Today. 2007-10-11. Archived from the original on 2012-08-11. Critics called it an overdue acknowledgment that the so-called Combatant Status Review Tribunals are unfairly geared toward labeling detainees the enemy, even when they pose little danger. Simply redoing the tribunals won't fix the problem, they said, because the system still allows coerced evidence and denies detainees legal representation.
  20. ^ Guantánamo Prisoners Getting Their Day, but Hardly in Court, New York Times, November 11, 2004 - mirror Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Inside the Guantánamo Bay hearings: Barbarian "Justice" dispensed by KGB-style "military tribunals", Financial Times, December 11, 2004
  22. ^ "Q&A: What next for Guantanamo prisoners?". BBC News. 2002-01-21. Archived from the original on 24 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Benjamin Wittes, Zaathira Wyne (2008-12-16). "The Current Detainee Population of Guantánamo: An Empirical Study". The Brookings Institution. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-06-22. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
  24. ^ Andy Worthington (2012-10-25). "Who Are the 55 Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners on the List Released by the Obama Administration?". Retrieved 2015-02-19. I have already discussed at length the profound injustice of holding Shawali Khan and Abdul Ghani, in articles here and here, and noted how their cases discredit America, as Khan, against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists, nevertheless had his habeas corpus petition denied, and Ghani, a thoroughly insignificant scrap metal merchant, was put forward for a trial by military commission — a war crimes trial — under President Bush.
  25. ^ Andy Worthington (June 11, 2010). "Does Obama Really Know or Care About Who Is at Guantánamo?". Archived from the original on 2010-06-16. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  26. ^ Peter Finn (January 22, 2010). "Justice task force recommends about 50 Guantanamo detainees be held indefinitely". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  27. ^ Peter Finn (May 29, 2010). "Most Guantanamo detainees low-level fighters, task force report says". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  28. ^ "71 Guantanamo Detainees Determined Eligible to Receive a Periodic Review Board as of April 19, 2013". Joint Review Task Force. 2013-04-09. Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  29. ^ "Periodic Review Secretariat: Review Information". Periodic Review Secretariat. Archived from the original on 2016-04-15.
  30. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2016-03-25). "Guantánamo Periodic Review Board Guide". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2016-04-05.
  31. ^ Farmer, Ben (2011-02-06). "Afghan peace council risks angering US by demanding release of Taliban leader Khairullah Khairkhwa from Guantanamo". The Telegraph (UK). Kabul. Archived from the original on 2011-04-14. Retrieved 2015-07-06. The demand that Khairullah Khairkhwa is released has emerged as the first formal recommendations from the High Peace Council.
  32. ^ M K Bhadrakumar (2012-01-10). "There's more to peace than Taliban". Asia Times. Archived from the original on 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2012-01-11. Nevertheless, Iranian media insist that three high-ranking Taliban leaders have been released - Mullah Khairkhawa, former interior minister; Mullah Noorullah Noori, a former governor; and Mullah Fazl Akhund, the Taliban's chief of army staff - in exchange for an American soldier held by the Taliban.
  33. ^ "Guantanamo Taliban inmates 'agree to Qatar transfer'". BBC News. 2012-03-10. Archived from the original on 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2012-03-12. If the president pursues this strategy, though, he will need support from wary politicians in Congress, our correspondent says. Many there see a transfer of what they call the most dangerous inmates at Guantanamo as a step too far, he adds.
  34. ^ Rahim Faiez, Anne Gearan (2012-03-12). "Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo OK transfer". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2012-03-12. Five top Taliban leaders held by the U.S. in the Guantánamo Bay military prison told a visiting Afghan delegation they agree to a proposed transfer to the tiny Gulf state of Qatar, opening the door for a possible move aimed at bringing the Taliban into peace talks, Afghan officials said Saturday.
  35. ^ a b Hamid Shalizi (2012-03-10). "Taliban Guantanamo detainees agree to Qatar transfer - official". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2012-03-12. Karzai's top aide, Ibrahim Spinzada, visited the Guantanamo facility this week to secure approval from the five Taliban prisoners to be moved to Qatar.
  36. ^ "American soldier held captive in Afghanistan is now free". MSNBC. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  37. ^ Correspondent, Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon. "Military suspects Detainee swapped for Bergdahl has returned to fight - CNNPolitics". CNN. Retrieved 2017-10-11.

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