ISIS is actively recruiting members in Afghanistan, according to Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander there. Already, ISIS has secured the services of Mullah Raouf Khadim, an experienced former Taliban commander. Not only that, Raouf reportedly is leading a contingent of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand.
The U.S. deserves an assist on this one. We released Raouf from Gitmo in 2007, sending him back to Afghanistan. Raouf escaped Afghan custody in 2009 and promptly rejoined the Taliban, along with another former detainee, Mullah Abdullah Zakir, who was already serving as the Taliban’s surge commander in southern Afghanistan.
Raouf has since decided to cast his lot with ISIS, having reportedly lost a power struggle within the Taliban.
Raouf’s release from Gitmo represents another triumph for lawfare over national security and, indeed, common sense. During legal proceedings, Raouf insisted that he had not been a member of the Taliban and that, if released, he would live a peaceful existence. As Tom Joscelyn recounts:
During two hearings at Guantanamo, [Raouf] Khadim claimed to be a low-level conscript who was forced to serve the Taliban. “I am not a member of the Taliban,” Khadim said during his combatant status review tribunal (CSRT). During his administrative review board (ARB) hearing, Khadim also denied receiving any weapons training or fighting for the Taliban. He said that he had merely served food from a nearby bakery to the Taliban’s soldiers.
Laying it on as thick as possible (perhaps with coaching from crack American “pro bono” lawyers), Raouf claimed that his post-release plans consisted of helping the Afghan government and farming:
“If I go back right now and there is Karzia’s [sic] government, all I want to do is go there and work on my land,” [Raouf] Khadim claimed during his ARB hearing. “I know they are probably a little upset but I had no choice,” Khadim said in reference to his Taliban service. “If they do not mind, I’d love to go there and help them out with the new government and work for them.”
During questioning by a member of his review board, Khadim elaborated further on his plans for life after Guantanamo. “I had two bulls that were pulling the plow to soften the soil and we grew vegetables and rice and corn and that’s how I survived from my own land. That’s what I’m planning on doing. To go there and feed my family and myself.”
The bulls are a nice touch, no?
You can’t make this stuff up. But terrorists, especially if aided by American lawyers, can.
According to Joscelyn, Raouf is not the only ex-Guantanamo detainee who is attempting to expand the Islamic State’s influence into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Muslim Dost, who was also once held in Cuba, has been helping Baghdadi’s organization by recruiting and spreading its propaganda throughout the region.
Raouf, considered a “medium” threat by U.S. authorities during his imprisonment, was released from Gitmo more than seven years ago. Can we be confident that the hard core terrorists, deemed throughout the intervening period to be too dangerous to release but now being set free by President Obama, will not follow Raouf’s path back into terrorism?
Of course not. Unfortunately, Obama seems to place greater priority on keeping his misguided campaign promises to the left than on protecting the U.S. and its friends from terrorists.