A “senior Gulf official” told Reuters that the five senior Taliban leaders who were previously held at Guantanamo Bay and recently swapped for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl are now free to move around the country of Qatar without restrictions. From Reuters:
“All five men received medical checks and they now live with their families in an accommodation facility in Doha,” the Gulf source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. “They can move around freely within the country.”
Following the deal under which freed the last American soldier held in Afghanistan was freed, concerns have been expressed by some U.S. intelligence officials and congressional advisers over the role of the Gulf Arab state as a bridge between Washington and the world of radical Islam.
The Gulf official said the Taliban men, who have been granted Qatari residency permits, will not be treated like prisoners while in Doha and no U.S. officials will be involved in monitoring their movement while in the country. [emphasis added]
“Under the deal they have to stay in Qatar for a year and then they will be allowed to travel outside the country …. They can go back to Afghanistan if they want to,” the official said.
The five freed Taliban commanders have been identified as Abdul Haq Wasiq, an intelligence official; Mullah Norullah Noori, senior military commander; Mullah Mohammad Fazl, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of defense; Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, the Taliban’s former governor of Herat province; and Mohammad Nabi Omari, a senior leader. JTF-GTMO had previously recommended that all five remain in custody as they posed a threat to the US. [See LWJ reports, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl exchanged for top 5 Taliban commanders at Gitmo, and Taliban says ‘five senior leaders’ have been ‘liberated’ from Guantanamo.]
Keep in mind that the Taliban still maintains a “political office” in Qatar, where these commanders will have the ability to communicate with the Taliban’s top leadership, which of course is based in Pakistan. As LWJ‘s Thomas Joscelyn noted in an article at The Weekly Standard, just because the five Taliban commanders are stuck in Qatar for the next year (or so we assume), it doesn’t mean that they can’t further the Taliban’s cause:
Even if the Gitmo Five stay in Qatar for one year, they will have plenty of opportunities to aid their brethren. Senate Democrats openly objected to a similar deal in early 2012 for this reason. The Taliban Five are of great propaganda value to the Taliban for propaganda and can also help fundraise.
A leaked State Department cable, dated December 30, 2009, contains a summary of the problem [emphasis added]:
Qatar has adopted a largely passive approach to cooperating with the U.S. against terrorist financing. Qatar’s overall level of CT cooperation with the U.S. is considered the worst in the region. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, UN-1267 listed LeT, and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale. Although Qatar’s security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals.
The situation has not improved since that cable was written in 2009. In its Country Reports on Terrorism for 2013, which was released in late April of this year, the State Department again sounded the alarm on Qatar.
And it just gets worse. Read the whole thing.