Taliban says 'five senior leaders' have been 'liberated' from Guantanamo


Hours after the US government announced that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been released in exchange for the top five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo, the Taliban released a statement celebrating the trade. The Taliban's statement, which was first obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, was posted online in Arabic and Pashto.

The five Taliban commanders once held at Guantanamo have been profiled multiple times by The Long War Journal. [For instance, see LWJ report, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl exchanged for top 5 Taliban commanders at Gitmo.]

"With great happiness and joy we give glad tidings to all people, and especially the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate, and the families of the five senior leaders of the Islamic Emirate, and those who love them and their families," the Taliban says in the opening lines of its announcement of the prisoner swap.

The Taliban is quick to point out that the five ex-Guantanamo detainees were "liberated as a result of non-straightforward negotiations between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and America with mediation from Qatar, and those people will reside in Qatar with their families." In other words, the Taliban stresses that it did not participate in direct negotiations with the Americans. The US government has been pursuing negotiations with the Taliban as part of a reconciliation process for years.

The Taliban also argues that it got a good deal in the prisoner exchange. "It is worth mentioning that the Islamic Emirate, in exchange for the release of its five prominent people,...released one America soldier that it had captured five years ago and handed him over to America," the Taliban says, according to SITE's translation.

The Taliban claims that the "five senior leaders of the Islamic Emirate" will be "received by the members of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and members of the Leadership Shura [Consultative Council]" of the Taliban in Qatar.

The Taliban announced that it had opened its "political office" in Qatar in early 2012. At the time, the Taliban "demanded the release of its captives from Guantanamo through a prisoner exchange." [See LWJ report, Afghan Taliban announces new 'political office' in Qatar.] That demand has now been met.

The Taliban concludes its statement by saying that it "aims to also quickly release the [other] imprisoned mujahideen, and wants all international human rights organizations to join in their efforts with the Islamic Emirate and the Afghan people to grant all the prisoners their legal and humanitarian rights, and the freedom to live their lives as they wish."



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READER COMMENTS: "Taliban says 'five senior leaders' have been 'liberated' from Guantanamo"

Posted by AnnS at June 1, 2014 4:26 AM ET:

Maybe obama has duped the American people again. According to an ex CIA agent I knew. Bowe probably a conver to Islam.

Posted by m3fd2002 at June 1, 2014 12:15 PM ET:

Possibly. Other sources indicate that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at a minimum deserted his post. A darker opinion indicates that he tried to defect. Regardless, there are many questions that he will have to answer. It would be ironic if he were tried for treason, BTW, that won't happen under Obama. To me, it seems a bit surreal, with almost every command decision coming from POTUS landing on the "unbelievable" side.

Posted by JRP at June 1, 2014 1:33 PM ET:

An earlier commentator, Brian L, got it correct . . . The Israelis do this all the time; bide their time; then nail the released enemy in due course. I've said this before and will say it again, notwithstanding his domestic agenda and notwithstanding his cessation of drone attacks in Pakistan; President Obama has done far far more waging the Global WoT than any of his predecessors. It is only racism that keeps many many people from acknowledging the President's successes and accomplishments in the WoT.

Posted by irebukeu at June 1, 2014 5:51 PM ET:

I dont care how the soldier came to be in the enemies hands. MY top three reasons for wanting him back are;
*1 He is an American soldier, not to be left behind for any reason.
*2 He is an American soldier, not to be left behind for any reason.
*3 He is an American soldier, not to be left behind for any reason.

For now I am assuming that whatever brought him into the hands of the taliban will be discovered in due time. I am just very glad for him, his family, his community, the people that have been at risk looking for him, that he has been released.

I prefer to see where this all leads before I pass judgment.

Posted by Michael Green at June 2, 2014 2:04 AM ET:

It is interesting to note that Sgt. Bergdahl's father is a muslim and when he met with Obama recently, he praise 'allah' and recited a common muslim phase that Jihadist's use.

In addition, Mr Bergdahl's Twitter account had the following 'Tweet', which has since been removed ;

"@ABalkhi I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay the death of every Afghan child, ameen!"

I wonder if he is referring to the scores of Afghan children who have been slaughtered and maimed by the same Taliban terrorists who have been holding his son captive for 5 years.

Posted by Andrew at June 2, 2014 6:05 AM ET:

Bill or anyone else….

What are the chances (a) the drones watching the Bergdahl trade-off tracked the abductors back to their origin point and used this opportunity to gather intelligence, and (b) tracking-devices were planted on the five freed Taliban scum?

If neither of these opportunities were taken, it was hardly worth it.

Of Bergdahl I'm of two minds; he is a deserter and not a hero. On the other hand, he's suffered enough. 5 years with the Haqqani is punishment enough. No need to put him in the brig or take any additional action. He was NOT, however, worth trading 5 high-profile and unrehabilitated Taliban for. If they wanted to free him, the only acceptable option would have been a rescue-op that left all his abductors with bullet holes in their heads. If that was too difficult to pull off, he should have been left with them. I'm happy he's home for the sake of his family, but how many will die because of those five medieval psychopaths that were released?

Posted by Barry Larking at June 2, 2014 7:19 AM ET:

With any luck these five will migrate to a place where they can be 'retired by drone'. More likely they will eventually settle in Pakistan, our ally ...

You may dislike Obama, but by golly, he has really taken to drone strikes. How many 'senior commanders' have been killed so far since he came to office? It must be in the hundreds by now.

Hostage taking, the circumstances and aftermath are very complex in all cases known to me. I am glad this chap is on his way home.

Posted by Andrew at June 2, 2014 8:30 AM ET:

@Barry Larking
I would agree with you if this was 2011. But Obama's gone really soft on the drone strikes the past couple years. In fact, 2014 has seen no strikes whatsoever in Pakistan. The fact is the drone program in Pakistan is completely on ice, unless they luck on to someone really high-value like Al-Zawahiri.

Posted by Eric at June 2, 2014 11:00 PM ET:

In 13 years of combat operations we had only 1 American taken POW as far as I know. Pretty good record. Now we have retrieved our 1 POW in a prisoner exchange. I guess the shouting is only just getting started about the terms of the exchange. Meanwhile, we can check that one off the list for dis-engagement from Afghanistan.

I just have to echo what Irebukeu said:

"I prefer to see where this all leads before I pass judgment"

There is just no telling what happens with the 5 Taliban we released. Really expect them to remain on the sidelines in Qatar for a year?

How does this leave things for the rest of the detainees in GTMO? Nothing left to bargain for, and their own leadership is too uppity to negotiate. What WILL we do with them? After the pullout, we are closing GTMO. Obama is fairly adamant about that. In point of fact, it kind of defines why we are pulling out before Obama leaves office. He wants to have the Presidential power to order it closed.

Welcome home Bowe Berghdal. God bless your mom and dad for never letting go. Men died trying find you. Good men. We are all waiting to hear why you walked away, in your own words.