ALIASES: Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Wali Herat
DOB: 1967, Argastan, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Citizenship: Afghanistan, Popalzai tribe
Risk Level: HIGH, likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies
Intelligence Value: HIGH
Rank/Position: Governor of the Heart Province, Minister of Interior, Military Commander
Incarcerated: May 1, 2002
Released: May 31, 2014
- Usama bin Laden
- Mullah Omar
- President Hamid Karzai
- Taliban Leadership
- Al Qaeda Leadership
- Afghan tribes
- Represented the Taliban in meetings with Iranian officials looking to support hostilities against the Coalition Forces and to broker trade and diplomatic relations with Iran
- Suspected of being associated with the training camp run by al-Qaeda commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi
- Opium trafficker and drug lord
- Represented Usama bin Laden at a meeting with HAMAS members
Khairkhwa grew up as a refugee in Pakistan. Although he had no formal education, he did study Islam in school. Until the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan, he was a leader in the Popalzai tribe. At this point he joined the Taliban and served in various positions because of his trustworthiness. He was a spokesman (1995-1996), Minister of Interior (1996-1999), and Governor of Heart Province (1999-2001). Khairkhwa claims that he took these positions in order to secure the safety of his tribe and denies knowledge of any terrorist activities.
Right before the 9-11 attacks, Mullah Omar told him that his relationship with Hamid Karzai was under scrutiny.
In October 2001, Khairkhwa met with Iranian officials who were offering to broker a coalition between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban to unite them against the US. Iran offered to allow Arabs to cross the border to fight.
When the Taliban lost control, Khairkhwa met with Karzai to discuss a position with the new government and to ask for personal safety. He met with several associates before his detention. He claims that he called Karzai’s brother to negotiate a surrender and a new government position. The next day, he was invited to Abd al-Manan’s house. Pakistan border patrol came to arrest al-Manan. He escaped and Khairkhwa was arrested instead. Pakistan held him 18 days before turning him over to the US.
Khairkhwa was taken to Guantanamo on May 1, 2002. The US was hoping to glean information regarding weapon shipments, Taliban leaders, demography, Iranian support, and Iranian intelligence capabilities. The US believes that Khairkhwa has detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the Taliban. Although he offered up information, none of it was sensitive, unique, or incriminating of himself or al-Qaeda.
On May 31, 2014, Khairkhwa, along with four other Taliban detainees, was traded for an American POW, Bowe Bergdahl. The Emir of Qatar has been credited for his efforts to secure this deal between the US and the Taliban. Khairkhwa, along with the other four, will be under Qatari control for at least one year, forbidden to leave the country.