The five former Gitmo detainees who were set to be released from close monitoring in Qatar on June 1 will have to wait a little longer to join their fellow Jihadis on the battlefield, as Qatar has agreed to hold them for a little while longer. The question is – for how long?
Via Fox News:
Qatar has agreed to temporarily extend travel bans on five senior Taliban leaders released last year from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a State Department official confirmed to Fox News Sunday.
The official said the ban would remain in place until diplomatic talks for a longer-term solution are completed. The restrictions had been due to expire on Monday under a May 2014 exchange for Bergdahl. U.S. officials said Friday the Obama administration was closing in on an agreement with Qatar to extend the restrictions for six months that could be announced this weekend. It was not immediately clear why that agreement had not been finalized.
The U.S. remains in “close contact” with Qatari authorities “to make sure these individuals do not pose a threat to the United States.” As a result of the talks to date, Qatar “has agreed to maintain the current restrictive conditions on these individuals as we continue these discussions,” the official said.
The official said the former detainees are all currently in Qatar and remain subject to the travel ban and extensive monitoring. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly speak to the matter.
Under the terms of the exchange, the five detainees were sent to Qatar, where government officials agreed to monitor their activities and prevent them from traveling out of the country for one year. In return, Bergdahl, who had been held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years after walking away from his Army post in Afghanistan, was released to the U.S. military. He recently was charged with desertion.
A government official familiar with the trade told Fox News earlier this year that at least three of the five Taliban leaders have tried to make contact with their old terror networks.
Fox News’ Harris Faulkner reported Sunday that some members of Congress are now complaining that “they weren’t even notified that the White House and Qatar were negotiating over trying to keep these five men from going free.”
Reporter Conor Powell said that “lawmakers on Capitol Hill and Afghan officials, to be honest, have expressed a lot of concern – even anger about this situation.”
Details are sketchy, but according to the reporter, the extension will be as brief as just a few days to “possibly a few more months.”
He noted that the White House has claimed that the probability of these five returning to the battlefield was low , “but there is some probability, so they’re working to extend this ban — so the White House back-tracking a little on this.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers from both parties continue to complain that the administration made the ill-conceived swap in the first place.
At issue is the fact that the White House didn’t give Congress a 30-day notification of the transfer as required by law.
After the transfer, the House Armed Services Committee demanded the Pentagon release internal documents about the swap. The committee received hundreds, but lawmakers complained that they were heavily redacted. The committee inserted language in the fiscal 2016 defense policy bill that threatens to cut Pentagon spending by about $500 million if the Defense Department doesn’t provide additional information about the exchange.
On Friday, lawmakers stepped up their calls.
“This release was a complete overreach by the White House, ignoring U.S. law,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “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.”
Speaker Boehner said Congress would “continue our efforts to investigate the administration’s handling of the Taliban Five swap.”