You will recall in the Bergdahl swap, we gave the Taliban 5 of their commanders back for the return of the Wandering American, Bowe Bergdahl. You might also remember the White House assuring us that the Qatar security services would keep close tabs on the 5 Taliban terrorists since they were not allowed to leave that country for a year.
Josh Rogin, foreign correspondent for the Daily Beast, was in Doha, Qatar for another one of those endless conferences on Muslim relations with the west and decided to “justify taking four days to schmooze in the Gulf by bringing home a big catch; I would find the Taliban Five or their luxury Doha compound and pose some questions to them, whether they were happy to see me or not.”
Rogin was the reporter who caught Secretary of State John Kerry’s off the cuff remarks about Israel turning into an “apartheid state” by infiltrating a meeting of the Trilateral Commission. The retiring sort he is not. So, with his trusty notebook and pen, Rogin set off to find the Taliban 5. After following several false leads, he engaged a taxi driver and the hunt was on:
After lightly interrogating a couple of the delivery boys at Afghan Brothers, we realized we had hit a dead end. None of the restaurant staff we met were Afghan and none had remembered selling food to any Afghans in the area, much less the five Afghans we were hunting.
We drove around the neighborhood searching for signs of a compound like no other. A robust police presence or elaborate surveillance cameras, for example, might signal the place where five high level Taliban officials were holed up. While we were cruising al-Muaither, we planned out what to ask the Taliban Five, if we found them, considering it would likely be a very short ambush style interview.
“Do you support Hillary Clinton for President,” was one idea tossed around. If they said yes, that would be big news.
“What word makes you laugh?” we thought might be a way to humanize these often-demonized figures.
After about an hour of peering into random compounds, we owned up to the futility of that tactic, but we had one more trick up our sleeve. We directed our driver to take us to the official Taliban representative office, the very same one that opened briefly in June 2013 in advance of what were to be direct U.S.-Taliban talks, but closed the same day after Hamid Karzai threw a tantrum over the embassy like sign on the front, which read “The Islamic State of Afghanistan.”
The Taliban representative office (pictured above) was not hard to find at all; it’s located in a plush residential neighborhood only 300 feet from the U.S. ambassador’s residence. The building looked like it was kept up and in use but there were no Taliban visible from the outside, only a Qatari policeman in a pillbox out front.
I got out of the car, started to approach the door, and the policeman began shouting in a language I assume was Arabic. As he was beckoning me to come over to him, I noticed my driver was slowly but surely pulling away without me, as he did not wish a confrontation with the government security services. The policeman, now yelling and shaking his fist, started to exit his pillbox and walk toward me. I snapped some photos, got into the rolling car, and we sped away.
Better luck next time, Josh. Meanwhile, where are the terrorists?
We failed to find our targets but we succeeded in having an adventure in Doha. The bottom line is that the Taliban Five aren’t likely to be found until or unless they want to be found. The U.S. is going to have to accept the fact that they simply aren’t under our supervision anymore. That’s the deal we made and they are holding us to it.
Bottom line: We don’t even know if they’re still in Qatar and it is unknown whether the Qataris know where they are.
We can assume our technical ability to follow them is pretty good. But our SIGINT people would have to be tasked with the job. Does the Obama administration want to know where they are?
Where in the world are the Taliban 5?