When the Telegraph first reported on the presence of Abdel Hakim al-Hasadi, the story started off with an explanation that, contrary to rumor, Hasadi had never been held at Guantanamo Bay. American forces had captured him fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, but the US transferred him to Libya after holding him in Afghanistan for a period of at least several months. However, Sufyan Ben Qumu did graduate from Club Gitmo in 2007 after six years in detention, and now he, Hasadi, and known Islamist exremist Salah al-Bahrani lead a substantial portion of the Libyan rebellion (via Liberty Pundits):
Two former Afghan Mujahedeen and a six-year detainee at Guantanamo Bay have stepped to the fore of this city’s military campaign, training new recruits for the front and to protect the city from infiltrators loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
The presence of Islamists like these amid the opposition has raised concerns, among some fellow rebels as well as their Western allies, that the goal of some Libyan fighters in battling Col. Gadhafi is to propagate Islamist extremism. …
Mr. Hasady’s field commander on the front lines is Salah al-Barrani, a former fighter from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which was formed in the 1990s by Libyan mujahedeen returning home after helping to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan and dedicated to ousting Mr. Gadhafi from power.
Sufyan Ben Qumu, a Libyan army veteran who worked for Osama bin Laden’s holding company in Sudan and later for an al Qaeda-linked charity in Afghanistan, is training many of the city’s rebel recruits.
Both Messrs. Hasady and Ben Qumu were picked up by Pakistani authorities after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and were turned over to the U.S. Mr. Hasady was released to Libyan custody two months later. Mr. Ben Qumu spent six years at Guantanamo Bay before he was turned over to Libyan custody in 2007.
Earlier this week, Admiral James Stavridis told Congress that intelligence had picked up “flickers” of radical Islamists in the rebellion. If these are “flickers,” then the Taliban must have be only a 40-watt light bulb in Afghanistan. We have a former Gitmo detainee training new insurgency fighters in a near-failed state, a situation that sounds a lot like Yemen rather than Libya, plus two mujahedin veterans running a major portion of the rebellion.
Thomas Joscelyn gives us more background on Qumu:
Declassified memos produced at Guantanamo paint a troubling picture of the man who is training Derna’s rebels. …
In Sudan, Qumu was a truck driver for a company owned by Osama bin Laden, but his standing soon progressed. He was named to the military committee of the LIFG. In 1998, Qumu joined the Taliban’s forces in Afghanistan, where he fought against the Northern Alliance.
Qumu continued to work with al Qaeda in Afghanistan as well. In memos prepared at Guantanamo, US officials alleged that he “received military training at Osama bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan” and his “name and family information” were “listed on a document which contained details of al Qaeda operatives’ families.” The Gitmo files note that the document “is associated with a senior al Qaeda operative.”
US officials at Gitmo also alleged that Qumu “met a senior al Qaeda facilitator between ten and twenty occasions.” One of the al Qaeda-affiliated camps Qumu attended was the Khalden camp, which was run by Ibn Sheikh al Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader who died while in Libyan custody in 2009, and Abu Zubaydah, a senior al Qaeda facilitator who is currently detained at Gitmo. The Gitmo files do not specifically say if either of these two al Qaeda leaders met with Qumu, or if he repeatedly met some other “senior al Qaeda facilitator.”
While in Kabul from August to November of 2001, Qumu worked for al Wafa, a charity that has been designated as an al Qaeda front by the US Treasury Department and United Nations. Sometime after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Qumu allegedly “met with al Qaeda operatives at a guest house in Kabul…to discuss the evacuation of women and children.” He also allegedly delivered equipment to al Qaeda and Taliban forces fighting the Northern Alliance in Mazar e Sharif, Afghanistan in late 2001.
So why did we release Qumu in the first place? Supposedly, it acted to strengthen our position on the global stage. Instead, we’ve let a very dangerous Islamist build an army of insurgents in North Africa. That’s not the Obama administration’s fault, of course, as Qumu was released during the Bush administration. But it is a good reason to stop releasing others from Gitmo.
Meanwhile, the US continues to publicly mull sending weapons to the rebellion. That’s a flicker of smart power.