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Abdul Salam Zaeef
عبدالسلام ضعيف
Afghanistan Ambassador to Pakistan
Personal details
Born 1968 (age 52–53)
Political party Islamic and National Revolution Movement of Afghanistan
Religion Sunni Islam

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef (Listeni/ˈæbdʊl səˈlɑːm zɑːˈf/; born 1968 in Kandahar) was the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan before the US invasion of Afghanistan.[1]

He was detained in Pakistan in the fall of 2001 and held until 2005 in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp.[1] The United Nations removed Zaeef from its list of terrorists in July 2010.[2]

Capture and detention[]

Following the U.S. invasion, Zaeef was forced to end his news conferences, seized by Pakistani authorities, and handed over to American operatives.[1] The Pajhwok Afghan News reported that Zaeef was freed from Guantanamo Bay.[3]


Zaeef was released from Guantanamo in the summer of 2005.[4]

An article in the Daily Times on 18 September 2005, Zaeef is quoted as saying that his release was "due to the effort of some friends".[5] He did not attribute his release to his Combatant Status Review Tribunal or his 2005 Administrative Review Board hearing. He described the actions of these two bodies as illegal.

Abuse claims[]

Zaeef claims he was chained in illegal "stress positions" and subjected to sleep deprivation and extremes of temperature while held in the USA's Bagram Theater Detention Facility.[6]

Recent work[]

Call for a unity government[]

On 12 April 2007 Zaeef stirred controversy by calling for a unity-government in Afghanistan.[6]

On Friday 6 June 2008 The Guardian published excerpts from an interview with Zaeef. It reported he claimed negotiations with the Taliban was the key to peace. And it reported he argued that the presence of foreign troops eroded the authority of the central government:[7]

"As long as the foreign troops are here, negotiations with the government will be difficult."

Move to Kabul[]

An article in Der Spiegel on 12 April 2007, reported that Zaeef had moved into a "...handsome guest house, located in the dusty modern neighborhood Khosh Hal Khan."[6] The article in Der Spiegel goes on to state that the new home Karzai's government has provided Zaeef is around the corner from one occupied by former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil. Der Spiegel described Zaeef's home as being guarded, inside and out, by a heavily armed security detail. Der Spiegel described both Zaeef and Muttawakil as regarded as among the more moderate former members of the Taliban.

Zaeff told the Chicago Tribune that Afghan security officials would not allow him to attend the mosque near his Kabul home.[8]

"There is a mosque near my house. The government told me, 'Please don't go to the mosque,' for my security. If I can't go to the mosque, how can I work?"

McClatchy interview[]

On 15 June 2008 the McClatchy News Service published articles based on interviews with 66 former Guantanamo captives. McClatchy reporters interviewed Abdul Salam Zaeef.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18] The McClatchy reports states that guards told him he was the "King of the prison". The McClatchy reports states that he took a lead role in the Guantanamo hunger strikes. The McClatchy reports states that guards in the Kandahar detention facility made him pointlessly move human excrement back and forth.

Saudi peace talks[]

Zaeef acknowledged being invited by Saudi King Abdullah to unofficially meet with other leading Afghan figures, from the Karzai government, the Taliban, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami and other former members of the Taliban.[19][20] Zaeef denied this meeting should be characterized as "peace talks". He stated that none of the individuals at this meeting had been authorized to conduct negotiations. Zaeef denied anyone discussed Afghanistan at this meeting. According to The Age other figures who attended the meeting included former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Fazel Hadi Shinwari.


Zaeef released a book in the Pashto language, "A Picture of Guantanamo," detailing his claims of mistreatment at Guantanamo.[21]

In October 2008, Abdul Salam Zaeef edited in Paris with the French journalist Jean-Michel Caradec'h, a recent book: "Prisonnier à Guantanamo". EGDV/Documents. 2008.[22]

In January 2010, Abdul Salam Zaeef published a book: "My Life With the Taliban". Hurst Publishers and Columbia University Press. 2010.[23][24] The book has been reviewed positively as offering a powerful look into what "drives" the Taliban.[25]


In October 2008, Zaeef said he would sue Pakistan for his arrest there in 2002.[26]

Flees harassment by US Forces[]

On 9 April 2012, Al Jazeera reported that Zaeef had fled for his life.[27][28][29][30][31] He fled to the United Arab Emirates. Al Jazeera quoted associates close to Zaeef who described repeated US attempts by US forces to raid Zaeef's house and seize him. Zaeef had been in protective custody by the Afghan government since his release from Guantanamo. Quoting Waheed Muzhda

Al Jazeera wrote:

Zaeef feared for his life in the wake of the attempted raids on his home. Many of the Taliban prisoners freed from Guantanamo had been killed in night raids and that made Zaeef more nervous.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Abdul Salam Zaeef (2010). "Torture and Abuse on the USS Bataan and in Bagram and Kandahar: An Excerpt from "My Life with the Taliban" by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef". Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. "We were not permitted to talk to each other, but could see one another while the food was handed to us. I eventually saw that Mullahs Fazal, Noori, Burhan, Wasseeq Sahib and Rohani were all among the other prisoners, but still we could not talk to each other." 
  3. Taliban ambassador Zaeef freed from Guantanamo Bay, Pajhwok Afghan News
  4. Behroz Khan (13 September 2005). "Ex-Taliban envoy released from Guantanamo Bay". Retrieved 2 July 2007. [dead link]
  5. No law at Guantanamo Bay prison, says Zaeef, Daily Times, 18 September 2005
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Olaf Ihlau (12 April 2007). "Ex-Taliban Official Calls for Unity Government in Afghanistan". Der Spiegel.,1518,476403,00.html. Retrieved 1 July 2007. 
  7. Nushin Arbabzadah (6 June 2008). "Talking to the Taliban: Afghan politicians increasingly believe negotiations with the ousted Taliban regime are the key to peace". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2008. 
  8. Kim Barker (4 March 2009). "Ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees fighting to fit in and feeling the pull to join the Taliban or Al Qaeda". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009.,0,3738086.story. Retrieved 4 March 2009.  mirror
  9. Tom Lasseter (15 June 2008). "Guantanamo Inmate Database: Page 2". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 16 June 2008.  mirror
  10. Tom Lasseter (18 June 2008). "U.S. hasn't apologized to or compensated ex-detainees". Myrtle Beach Sun. Retrieved 18 June 2008.  mirror
  11. Tom Lasseter (15 June 2008). "Pentagon declined to answer questions about detainees". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 20 June 2008.  mirror
  12. Tom Lasseter (16 June 2008). "Documents undercut Pentagon's denial of routine abuse". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 20 June 2008.  mirror
  13. Tom Lasseter (19 June 2008). "Deck stacked against detainees in legal proceedings". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 20 June 2008.  mirror
  14. Tom Lasseter (16 June 2008). "U.S. abuse of detainees was routine at Afghanistan bases". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 20 June 2008.  mirror
  15. Tom Lasseter (15 June 2008). "Guantanamo Inmate Database: Abdul Salam Zaeef". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 15 June 2008.  mirror
  16. Tom Lasseter (14 June 2008). "Former Taliban ambassador, free from Guantanamo, is under close watch". Kansas City Star. Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2008.  mirror
  17. Tom Lasseter (19 June 2008). "Taliban ambassador wielded power within Guantanamo". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 20 June 2008.  mirror
  18. Michael Doyle, Marisa Taylor (20 June 2008). "Guantanamo prisoner opens new era of court challenges". McClatchy News Service. Retrieved 20 June 2008.  mirror
  19. "Taliban and Afghan officials break bread". The Age. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 6 October 2008.  mirror
  20. 24 Hours, "Taliban denies peace talks", 7 October 2008
  21. Zeeshan Haider (30 July 2006). "Ex-Taliban Details Guantanamo 'Humiliation'". The Australian. Retrieved 3 July 2007. 
  22. Paris,France. ISBN 978-2-84267-945-3
  23. London and New York. ISBN 978-1-84904-026-6
  24. Qurat ul ain Siddiqui (29 August 2010). "Alternative discourse". newspaper. Retrieved 16 March 2010. "In this scenario the autobiography of a senior former member of the Afghan Taliban, Abdul Salam Zaeef, attempts to fill part of the great void of original Afghan narratives that has impeded a more perceptive understanding of the conflict on the part of the international observer."  mirror
  25. Ryan Shaffer (October 2010). "A Review of: "Abdul Salam Zaeef. My Life With the Taliban (ed. and tran. Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn)."". Terrorism and Political Violence, Volume 22, Issue 4. pp. 664–667. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  26. "Taleban official to sue Pakistan". BBC News. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2008.  mirror
  27. Qais Azimy, Mujib Mashal (9 April 2012). "Former Taliban leader flees for safety". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 17 April 2012. "Muzhda said Zaeef feared for his life in the wake of the attempted raids on his home. Many of the Taliban prisoners freed from Guantanamo had been killed in night raids and that made Zaeef more nervous."  mirror
  28. Jason Ditz (9 April 2012). "Ex-Taliban Turned Negotiator Flees After US Raids: Zaeef Flees Kabul, Relocates in United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 17 April 2012. "Though the US has used Zaeef’s help in setting up talks with the Taliban, Zaeef noted that the US has killed a number of former Gitmo detainees in the recent months, which has him convinced that he could well be next, and that he will be safer outside of its reach."  mirror
  29. "Fearing US raid, Taliban ex-diplomat Zaeef takes refuge in UAE". Daily Bhaskar. Retrieved 17 April 2012. "Afghan intelligence has confirmed that US forces tried to enter Zaeef's home this month, but were prevented at the entry gate. Many of the Taliban prisoners freed from Guantanamo had been killed in night raids."  mirror
  30. "Ex-Taliban ambassador Mullah Zaeef flees to UAE". Pakistan Today. 11 April 2004. Retrieved 17 April 2004. "Former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef has fled Afghanistan to the United Arab Emirates, fearing for his life after US forces attempted to search his home."  mirror
  31. Jennifer Rowland (11 April 2004). "135 feared dead in Kashmir avalanche". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 17 April 2004. "And Al Jazeera reported Monday morning that former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef has fled to the United Arab Emirates because of safety concerns after U.S. troops purportedly tried to search his Kabul home twice for evidence of his connections to an international terrorist plot (AJE). U.S. officials denied any knowledge of the search operations, which were prevented by Zaeef's government-provided guards." 

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