Sunday marks one year since Sgt. Bowe Bergdal was traded to the U.S. in exchange for the release of five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay.
On Monday, travel restrictions will be lifted by the former detainees’ host country, Qatar.
“I don’t have any announcements on this matter that I’m prepared to deliver today. But it is true that the United States has been in touch with our partners in Qatar about the kind of steps that we believe are important to protecting the national security of the American people,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today.
“You’ll recall that prior to the transfer of these — of these detainees taking place, we had reached agreements with Qatar about limitations that could be pleased on these individuals that would protect our national security, and that’s ultimately why the — why then-Secretary of Defense Hagel certified that this transfer could be conducted consistent with our national security goals,” he added. “And we continue to be in touch with the Qataris about the steps that we believe are necessary to protect the American people.”
But he wouldn’t say if that would include an extension of the travel ban.
“We’re talking to them about a range of issues, and when we have an announcement on this, we’ll let you know,” Earnest said.
“What the president believes is important is for us to make sure that we have in place the conditions that are necessary to protect the American people,” he said. “And what exactly that entails is not something I can talk about here, because it’s something that we’re talking about with the Qataris right now. But when we do have an announcement on this, we’ll let you know.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) noted that “already over the past year, it’s been reported that the flimsy ‘security assurances’ in Qatar have been violated, jeopardizing our security.”
“In a few days, these assurances disappear and Taliban leaders will be free to return to the battlefield, putting U.S. security interests and Americans at risk,” Royce said in a statement today. “The White House’s race to empty Guantanamo continues. In December, six detainees were released by the administration to Uruguay with dubious assurances that they had never been involved in conducting or facilitating terrorist attacks. Now living blocks from our U.S. Embassy in Uruguay, these dangerous detainees are free to travel throughout the region. Uruguay is the latest example of this administration’s failure to properly weigh and respond to the threat posed by former detainees.”
That Uruguay transfer was the largest number of detainees released at one time since 2009.
“The president’s view that Guantanamo drives the terrorist threat is a fundamental misread of terrorist motivations – one that jeopardizes the safety and security of the United States and our allies,” Royce added.