I’m No Fancy Military Strategist But…

How is trading five Taliban commanders for a single low-level soldier (who according to most accounts deserted his post) anything but a colossally stupid blunder that makes the United States an international laughing stock?


Abdul Haq Wasiq

Thought to be in his early 40s, Wasiq served as the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence and “had direct access to Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin leadership,” according to an internal memo that assessed risk at Guantanamo. He reportedly used his office to support Al Qaeda “and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture.” He also reportedly arranged for Al Qaeda personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff. Wasiq belongs to the Khogyani Tribe and began his religious training under his father, Muhammad Saleem, who died in 1981. Three years later, he went to study Islam at Warah, a school located on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border near the Khyber Pass. When the Taliban assumed control in Afghanistan, a number of Islamic students, including Wasiq, went to Kabul. Wasiq has been accused by Human Rights Watch of mass killings and torture. According to a report by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Wasiq “arranged for Al Qaeda personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods.”

Mullah Norullah Noori

As a senior Taliban military commander, Noori has been described in government reports as a military mastermind of sorts who engaged in hostilities “against U.S. and Coalition forces in Zabul Province.” Noori, who is estimated to be around 46 or 47 years old, has developed close ties to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and other senior Taliban officials, according to a JTF-GTMO report. Noori, who was named as the Taliban governor for the Balkh and Lagman provinces, is wanted by the United Nations for war crimes including the murder and torture of thousands of Shiite Muslims. Noori has been able to remain a “significant figure” to Taliban supporters and sympathizers. According to government records, which are based on conversations with Noori, he grew up in Shajoy where he learned to read and write at a mosque in his village. His father was the imam at the mosque. As a boy, he worked as a farmer on his father’s land. In March 1999, he traveled to Kabul where he met with Mullah Yunis, the commander of the Taliban security base, and expressed interest in joining the Taliban. After the Taliban front lines fell in November 2001, Noori traveled to Konduz where he was trained and worked with Omar. Noori has been implicated in the murder of thousands of Shiites in northern Afghanistan. When asked about the killings, Noori “did not express any regret and stated they did what they needed to do in their struggle to establish their ‘ideal state.’”

Mullah Mohammad Fazi

As the Taliban’s former deputy defense minister, Fazi was held at Guantanamo after being identified as an enemy combatant by the United States. Fazi is an admitted senior commander who served as chief of staff of the Taliban Army and as a commander of its 22nd Division. He’s also wanted by the United Nations on war crimes for the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan. According to documents, Fazi “wielded considerable influence throughout the northern region of Afghanistan and his influence continued after his capture.” The Taliban has used Fazi’s capture as a recruiting tool. “If released, detainee would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties” with other terrorist groups, the Guantanamo report says.

Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa

Khairkhwa is the former governor of the Herat province and has close ties with Usama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. According to the Joint Task Force Guantanamo file, Khairkhwa “represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support hostilities against US and coalition forces.” Khairkhwa and his deputies are suspected of being associated with an extremist military training camp run by the Al Qaeda commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006. U.S. authorities have also accused Khairkhwa of becoming a powerful opium trafficker.

Mohammad Nabi Omari

As a senior Taliban leader, Nabi Omari has held multiple leadership roles in various terror-related groups. Pre-9/11, Nabi, who is estimated to be in his mid-40s, worked border security for the Taliban – a position that gave him “access to senior Taliban commander and leader of the Haqqani Network, Jalaluddin Haqqani,” according to the JTF-GTMO report. Born in the Khowst Province of Afghanistan, Nabi Omari and his family were forced to resettle as refugees though In Miram Shah, Pakistan after the Soviet Union’s occupation in Afghanistan. In the late 1980s, Nabi Omari returned to Afghanistan where he fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets. During the early 1990s, he ping-ponged between Taliban-related positions and others, including a stint as a used car salesman. In August 2002, Nabi reportedly helped two al Qaeda operatives smuggle missiles in Pakistan. The weapons were smuggled in pieces and the plan was to reassemble the missiles once all of the pieces had been brought across. Nabi was caught in September 2002 and eventually moved to Guantanamo.




13 thoughts on “I’m No Fancy Military Strategist But…

  1. These ruffians are considered a dream team? Your sources have misled you. Scoundrels? Yes. Have they done carnage, killings, and other atrocities? Yes. Thats war. Do you want to match that against what other military forces do in combat? Maybe so. There are more civilized attempts at wartime carnage. It seems pointless,though, if you are on the receiving end. Drone attacks. Overwhelming force with strategic bombing. Sends a message. Just hope you dont get the package.

    • I’m not sure what point you are trying to make, Ru. Regardless of whether the actions of these individuals were terrorism or “legal” wartime behavior, their obvious value to the enemy outweighs the value of our AWOL soldier’s return to the extent where the scale has toppled over.

      Let’s engage in a thought experiment: if as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2008, you knew that a U.S. soldier might be captured or killed in an operation to capture or kill all five of these Taliban operatives, would you consider that a strategic risk worth taking?

  2. It’s unfortunate that the only measure of value you seem to recognize is tactical in nature.

    I don’t think this was a tactical blunder. The Taliban has been whipped. They will be of negligent concern to us once we leave theater. But I sleep a little better at night knowing that if I’m caught out there – even if I am a turd – someone will at least make an effort to bring me home.

    • It’s not the only measure.

      – Bergdahl freed from a situation he created by deserting his post
      – Bergdahl’s family, who may have encouraged him to desert, gets their son back
      – Kacy and some others in military “sleep a little better at night”

      – Much of the military outraged that efforts and lives sacrificed to capture the Taliban leaders have been nullified by trade
      – Much of the military and country at large outraged that lives were already spent looking for deserter Bergdahl
      – Taliban commanders back in the field to rejoin military operations against America or commit terrorist acts
      – With extremely lopsided deal, America appears weak internationally and is harmed in future negotiations
      – America’s enemies and terrorist organizations emboldened to kidnap, ransom, and threaten to kill American military personnel

      I’m still not seeing it.

      • It’s unlikely that Bergdahl’s family encouraged him to wander alone into Afghanistan. This is pure speculation, and not even reasonable.

        The military spent lives looking for the deserter, yes… but they knew that when they went out there. Any outrage about that should not be affected by his liberation – it’s an entirely separate issue.

        The Taliban leaders that have been captured would likely have been released once the war ends. We have no legal standing to keep POWs once the war is over. Once that war ends, they would have had zero bargaining value.

        The Taliban was not a terrorist organization that sought out attacks against the US – not until we attacked them. Until that time, our main gripe against them was for harboring Al Qaida. They have no military operations against America. They’ve been “insurgents” – defending their territory.

        It’s not that lopsided a deal in the grand scheme of things. Charles Krauthammer had this to say about it:

        “We have long engaged — and all other countries in the West have long engaged — in hostage swaps where the West always comes out on the short end,” said Krauthammer to Fox News host Bret Baier. “And the reason is that we put a value on an individual human life the way that the barbarians at the other end of the table don’t.”

        To demonstrate that other western countries have been on the short end of such swaps, Krauthammer cited an Israeli hostage exchange from 2011.

        “The best example is the Israelis, who gave up 1,000 terrorists in return for one sergeant,” Krauthammer said.”


        I don’t expect this will change your position, but at least you’ve got the information.

      • The salient difference is Shalit was abducted by militants while serving honorably at his post. This is why 80% of Israelis favored the deal and there were massive rallies across the country out of a sense of duty to get him back. If Shalit had been captured because he deserted his post like Bergdahl, nobody in Israel would have given two shits about him, just like nobody was calling for Bergdahl’s release in the U.S. I suppose one could argue he was technically never convicted of desertion, but the evidence is overwhelming.

    • I take issue with your pluralization “guys” and with the words “at all,” implying unanimity. The article you linked gives the opinion of a single retired military commander. It then quotes another military commander who agrees with me.

      • That single military commander was the commander of US Central Command – the overall commander of all military operations in the Mid-East region. If there is such a thing as *the* authority on Mid-Eastern strategy, he would be it.

        And if Boynkin is the “other” guy you’re referring to… he has zero credibility. There isn’t a word that comes out of his mouth that isn’t politically motivated.

      • Let’s begin with the understanding that military titles do not influence my opinion of individuals or their arguments in the slightest. I am influenced by persuasive logic and personal integrity.

        If Mattis is the expert to which you are appealing (I don’t have an expert; I was just pointing out that the article you linked was evenly split between two such “guys”), then let’s dig deeper into his statements in the article:

        “[T]here’s also a freedom to operate against them that perhaps we didn’t fully enjoy so long as they held Bowe as a prisoner.”

        Is he seriously suggesting that the U.S. has been pulling punches militarily because it was afraid of what the Taliban might do to Bowe? I think the very suggestion of that is absurd. Do you find that reasonable?

        “If they were real men, they would have gone down fighting,” he said. “So, they’re not that tough.”

        American POWs were not “real men” according to Mattis? Do you support this line of reasoning, Kacy? You must, because this is your military expert, right? He knows better than we do.

  3. “If Mattis is the expert to which you are appealing”

    lol! Yeah, I am committing the ol’ “Appeal to expertise” fallacy. hehe…

    “Is he seriously suggesting that the U.S. has been pulling punches militarily because it was afraid of what the Taliban might do to Bowe? I think the very suggestion of that is absurd. Do you find that reasonable?”

    I don’t know. It’s plausible. This is one of those cases where I defer to the experts.

    “American POWs were not “real men” according to Mattis? Do you support this line of reasoning, Kacy? You must, because this is your military expert, right? He knows better than we do. ”

    No, I don’t. But I don’t think that’s his supporting argument. I think that was a flippant corollary point that he failed to fully think through.

  4. “Let’s begin with the understanding that military titles do not influence my opinion of individuals or their arguments in the slightest. ”

    His position and experience has afforded him insight and expertise that only those who have held that position possess. If that doesn’t make him uniquely qualified to give an authoritative assessment, then there’s no such thing as expertise.

    • He could still be wrong, as generals often are. For example, the quotes of his I copied from the article you linked are a whole boatload of stupid. They’re not “real men” because they were captured and therefore aren’t a threat? How does that make any sense, and isn’t that rather insulting to American POWs?

      You didn’t answer my question – are you going to stand behind such non sequiturs and defer to his expertise in all military matters? If not, why should I defer to him on this topic?

      Update: I see that you did answer the question above in a separate comment, although I don’t see why I should defer to him in light of such idiotic statements in the same interview on the same subject. I also think it’s absurd to suggest the U.S. military would not conduct an otherwise worthwhile operation because the Taliban might kill Bergdahl. I can’t believe you would even entertain that suggestion, regardless of this man’s title.

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