Nurullah Nuri

Nurullah Nuri is a U.N.-sanctioned Taliban senior leader based in Qatar. Nuri commanded Taliban military forces during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.David Blair, “Five pillars of the old Taliban regime,” June 1, 2014, Telegraph (London), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/10868068/Five-pillars-of-old-Taliban-regime.html. From 2000 to 2001, Nuri was the governor of numerous provinces under the control of the Taliban. Nuri is implicated in the summary execution of ethnic Uzbeks in May 2001 and of at least 31 ethnic Hazara civilians and Shiite Muslim detainees at Robatak Pass, in north central Afghanistan, in May 2000.“Afghanistan: Three Afghan Commanders Should Be Prosecuted,” Human Rights Watch, December 3, 2001, https://www.hrw.org/legacy/english/docs/2001/12/03/afghan3396_txt.htm;
“Massacre at Robatak Pass, May 2000,” Human Rights Watch, 2001, https://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/afghanistan/afghan101-04.htm;
Lolita C. Baldor, “Lawmakers worry prisoner swap sets a troubling precedent,” Public Broadcasting Service, June 2, 2014, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/lawmakers-worry-prisoner-swap-sets-troubling-precedent/.

Nuri was captured by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in November 2001 and detained in the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention center from January 2002 to May 2014.“S E C R E T / / NOFORN / / 20330223,” U.S. Department of Defense, February 23, 2008, http://media.miamiherald.com/static/images/escenic-images/gitmopdfs/us9af-000007dp.pdf. He was one of five Taliban senior leaders transferred to Qatar as part of the Qatar-mediated exchange for captive U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.“Report on the Inquiry into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of five law-of-war detainees in connection with the recovery of a captive U.S. soldier,” Committee on Armed Services, December 9, 2015, https://armedservices.house.gov/sites/republicans.armedservices.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Report%20on%20the%20Inquiry%20into%20the%20Taliban%20Five%20Transfer_0.pdf. According to the Times of Oman, Nuri is “the most controversial” of the “Taliban Five.”“Many Afghans oppose release of Taliban officials,” Times of Oman, June 2, 2014, http://timesofoman.com/article/35230/World/Many-Afghans-oppose-release-of-Taliban-officials. Former U.S. Presidential candidate and Senator for Arizona John McCain also described Nuri and the “Taliban Five” as “the hardest of the hard-core.”Lolita C. Baldor, “Lawmakers worry prisoner swap sets a troubling precedent,” Public Broadcasting Service, June 2, 2014, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/lawmakers-worry-prisoner-swap-sets-troubling-precedent/.

According to a December 2015 report by the Committee on Armed Services, the U.S. intelligence community determined that Nuri was a “natural” although not necessarily “effective leader among the Afghan Guantanamo Bay detainees.“Report on the Inquiry into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of five law-of-war detainees in connection with the recovery of a captive U.S. soldier,” Committee on Armed Services, December 9, 2015, https://armedservices.house.gov/sites/republicans.armedservices.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Report%20on%20the%20Inquiry%20into%20the%20Taliban%20Five%20Transfer_0.pdf. Among others, Nuri was an associate of former Taliban emir (leader) Mullah Omar, and was at one point one of 25 Taliban officials who met with Omar most frequently.“Report on the Inquiry into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of five law-of-war detainees in connection with the recovery of a captive U.S. soldier,” Committee on Armed Services, December 9, 2015, https://armedservices.house.gov/sites/republicans.armedservices.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Report%20on%20the%20Inquiry%20into%20the%20Taliban%20Five%20Transfer_0.pdf.

Nuri was captured by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in November 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay detention center on January 11, 2002.Department of Defense, “JTF-GTMO Detainee Assessment [Norullah Noori],” New York Times, February 20, 2008, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/6-mullah-norullah-noori. Six years after his capture, a February 2008 security assessment by the Department of Defense deemed that Nuri continued to pose a high risk to the U.S., its interests and allies.

On May 31, 2014, Nuri was released from Guantanamo Bay along with four other Taliban prisoners, including U.N.-designated Taliban operatives Fazl Mohammad Mazlooma and Abdul Haq Wasiq.Mushtaq Yusufzai, “Freed Taliban Commander Tells Relative He’ll Fight Americans Again,” NBC News, June 6, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/bowe-bergdahl-released/freed-taliban-commander-tells-relative-hell-fight-americans-again-n124451. The release of the so-called “Taliban Five,” brokered by Qatar, was conducted in exchange for U.S. Army sergeant Robert Bowdrie “Bowe” Bergdahl, who had been captured by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network in June 2009.Mushtaq Yusufzai, “Freed Taliban Commander Tells Relative He’ll Fight Americans Again,” NBC News, June 6, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/bowe-bergdahl-released/freed-taliban-commander-tells-relative-hell-fight-americans-again-n124451.

At the time of the their transfer, the so-called Taliban Five—including Nuri—were considered to be sufficiently dangerous as to require them to remain in detention.“Report on the Inquiry into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of five law-of-war detainees in connection with the recovery of a captive U.S. soldier,” Committee on Armed Services, December 9, 2015, https://armedservices.house.gov/sites/republicans.armedservices.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Report%20on%20the%20Inquiry%20into%20the%20Taliban%20Five%20Transfer_0.pdf. Although the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United States and Qatar was classified regarding the terms for Taliban detainees released to Qatar, the U.S. Armed Forces Committee was able to note that the MOU specified “monitoring” efforts to be undertaken by Qatar, as well as the prohibition against detainees’ “travel outside Qatar,” “engaging in conduct that will raise money for prohibited causes,” and “threatening American interests.”“Report on the Inquiry into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of five law-of-war detainees in connection with the recovery of a captive U.S. soldier,” Committee on Armed Services, December 9, 2015, 76, https://armedservices.house.gov/sites/republicans.armedservices.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Report%20on%20the%20Inquiry%20into%20the%20Taliban%20Five%20Transfer_0.pdf.

After arriving in Doha, Qatar, a Taliban commander who is also Nuri’s relative claimed that Nuri insisted he “would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there.”Mushtaq Yusufzai, “Freed Taliban Commander Tells Relative He’ll Fight Americans Again,” NBC News, June 6, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/bowe-bergdahl-released/freed-taliban-commander-tells-relative-hell-fight-americans-again-n124451. The U.S. Committee on Armed Services determined in December 2015 that members of the Taliban Five have indeed been engaged in “threatening activities” since their transfer to Qatar “not unlike their activities before they were detained on the battlefield.”“Report on the Inquiry into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of five law-of-war detainees in connection with the recovery of a captive U.S. soldier,” Committee on Armed Services, December 9, 2015, https://armedservices.house.gov/sites/republicans.armedservices.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Report%20on%20the%20Inquiry%20into%20the%20Taliban%20Five%20Transfer_0.pdf. In January 2015, the U.S. Pentagon said that there was reason to believe that “at least one” member of the Taliban Five was involved in “some activities… centered around potential reengagement.” In March 2015, a news outlet reported that “at least three of the five Taliban leaders… have tried to plug back into their old terror networks.”“Report on the Inquiry into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of five law-of-war detainees in connection with the recovery of a captive U.S. soldier,” Committee on Armed Services, December 9, 2015, 75, https://armedservices.house.gov/sites/republicans.armedservices.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Report%20on%20the%20Inquiry%20into%20the%20Taliban%20Five%20Transfer_0.pdf.

As of 2015, Taliban leaders were reportedly living in an exclusive neighborhood in suburban Doha, receiving luxury SUVs, free medical care, air-conditioned homes “the size of small castles,” and fresh produce delivered daily to their homes, according to a report by Newsweek journalist Sami Yousafzai.Sami Yousafzai, “Taliban Leaders Are Living in Luxury in Qatar,” Newsweek, March 24, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/2015/04/03/taliban-leaders-are-living-luxury-qatar-316122.html.

 
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