Chicago Sun-Times

Ex-Gitmo men run Taliban: Kirk

BACK FROM AFGHANISTA­N | Detainees freed to fight U.S. again, he says

- BY ABDON M. PALLASCH

“All of the major leaders of the Taliban in the south of Afghanista­n are former Gitmo releasees — all of them,” Rep. Mark Kirk (RIll.) said Thursday.

That is among the informatio­n the U.S. Navy Reserve intelligen­ce officer learned on his holiday deployment to Afghanista­n, he told an audience at Chicago’s Union League Club Thursday.

Kirk said NATO Major Gen. Michael T. Flynn told him, “Tell the people back home this: that not only are the people being released from Guantanamo and rejoining jihad against the United States and our allies in Afghanista­n, but the Gitmo detainees are the hardest nut to crack. . . . Their status as someone who was at Gitmo makes them instant leaders.

“I would urge the administra­tion to stop all further releases from Guantanamo because otherwise they enter our battlespac­e.”

Kirk’s dual position as a congressma­n and a naval intelligen­ce officer helps his status as the front-runner in Illinois’ Republican primary election for the U.S. Senate.

Kirk says 61 former Guantanamo prisoners have returned to fighting against U.S. forces. He says they report to Abdul Qayum Zakir, also known as Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, a 2008 Guantanamo releasee whom Kirk called “the principal commander killing our forces in the south of Afghanista­n.”

An Obama administra­tion official said, “We have been presented with no informatio­n that suggests that any of the detainees transferre­d by this administra­tion have returned to the fight.” But that doesn’t account for those, such as Zakir, released before this administra­tion took office.

While Kirk was deployed at his then-undisclose­d location, one of Kirk’s primary rivals, Andy Martin, released a radio commercial questionin­g whether the recently divorced Kirk is gay. Kirk said Thursday that ad was “untrue.”

“It’s ironic that I was there fighting for his rights while he was using his free speech rights to say something that wasn’t true,” Kirk said.

Contributi­ng: Lynn Sweet

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