BEIRUT (8:05 P.M.) – Afghanistan’s new Taliban government has appointed former Guantanamo detainee mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir as it’s acting defense minister, according to Qatari based Al Jazeera news channel on Tuesday, subsequently reported in Reuters.
He was among the first senior Taliban commanders to enter Kabul last week as the group overran the capital amid the U.S. troop exit, and after U.S.-trained national forces largely fled. Until being named as Defense Minister, Qayyum was deputy to the Taliban’s commander-in-chief, Mullah Yaqoob.
He was freed from the notorious U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007, despite being rumored to have been close to the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
In 2010 The Associated Press noted that he had gone straight back to the battlefield after a brief stint in an Afghanistan jail, despite telling American military interrogators he desired to live a peaceful life as a civilian.
“A Taliban commander in the 1990s who was notorious for brutality and summary executions, Qayyum was captured in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and taken to Guantanamo,” the AP wrote at the time. “According to transcripts, he identified himself to his American captors by his father’s name, Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, and said he had been conscripted by the Taliban but left at the first opportunity.”
He reportedly told U.S. officials while imprisoned, “I want to go back home and join my family and work in my land and help my family.”
Qayyum was released to the custody of the Afghan government in December 2007 along with a dozen other Afghan prisoners, and held at a jail on the outskirts of eastern Kabul, before Afghan authorities let him go a year later, after which he rejoined the Taliban.