Excerpted from WEEKLY STANDARD: One of the five senior Taliban leaders transferred to Qatar in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl played a key role in al Qaeda’s plans leading up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Mohammad Fazl, who served as the Taliban’s army chief of staff and deputy defense minister prior to his detention at Guantánamo, did not have a hand in planning the actual 9/11 hijackings. Along with a notorious al Qaeda leader, however, Fazl did help coordinate a military offensive against the enemies of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan the day before. And Osama bin Laden viewed that September 10 offensive as an essential part of al Qaeda’s 9/11 plot.
The 9/11 Commission found that the hijackings in the United States on September 11, 2001, were the culmination of al Qaeda’s three-step plan. First, on September 9, 2001, al Qaeda assassinated Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud in a suicide bombing. Massoud’s death was a major gift to the Taliban because he was their chief rival and still controlled parts of the country. The assassination was also intended to weaken opposition to the Taliban and al Qaeda within Afghanistan before the United States could plan its retaliation for the most devastating terrorist attack in history. The Northern Alliance did, in fact, play a role in America’s response.
The following day, September 10, al Qaeda and the Taliban took their second step. A “delayed Taliban offensive against the Northern Alliance was apparently coordinated to begin as soon as [Massoud] was killed,” the 9/11 Commission found. Fazl and one of bin Laden’s chief lieutenants, Abdul Hadi al Iraqi, played key roles in this setup for 9/11. At the time, al Iraqi oversaw what al Qaeda called the Arab 55th Brigade, which was Osama bin Laden’s chief fighting force inside Afghanistan and fought side by side with Mullah Omar’s forces.
According to a leaked Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment of Fazl, al Iraqi met with Fazl “on several occasions to include immediately following the assassination of [Massoud] in September 2001.” Al Iraqi “stated the Northern Alliance was demoralized after the assassination and [he] met with [Fazl] to immediately coordinate an attack with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.” Keep Reading...