Ex-Guan­tanamo de­tainees kept in Qatar

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION -

WASH­ING­TON — Qatar has agreed to tem­po­rar­ily ex­tend travel bans on five high-level Tal­iban lead­ers re­leased last year from the U.S. pri­son at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, in ex­change for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a se­nior Amer­i­can of­fi­cial said Sun­day.

The of­fi­cial said the ban would re­main in place un­til talks for a longer-term so­lu­tion were com­pleted. The re­stric­tions had been set to ex­pire Mon­day un­der terms of the May 2014 ex­change for Bergdahl. U.S. of­fi­cials said Fri­day that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion was closing in on an agree­ment to ex­tend the re­stric­tions for six months and that it could be an­nounced over the week­end. It was un­clear why that agree­ment had not been fi­nal­ized.

The of­fi­cial said the U.S. re­mained 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, 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 were all in Qatar and re­mained sub­ject to the travel ban and ex­ten­sive mon­i­tor­ing. The of­fi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss the mat­ter.

Un­der the terms of the ex­change, the five de­tainees were sent to Qatar, where 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.

At least one of the five re­port­edly con­tacted mil­i­tants while in Qatar. No de- tails have been dis­closed about that pos­si­ble con­tact, but the White House con­firmed that one was put un­der en­hanced sur­veil­lance.

One or more of the de­tainees met with some mem­bers of the Al Qaeda-af­fil­i­ated Haqqani mil­i­tant group in Qatar this year, Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham (R-S.C.) said. That was an in­di­ca­tion that the group was reach­ing out to the so-called Tal­iban Five, said Gra­ham, who pre­dicted all five would re­join the fight in Afghanistan.

The State Depart­ment says that U.S. of­fi­cials work to mit­i­gate the risk of for­mer Guan­tanamo de­tainees re­turn­ing to the fight, threat- en­ing Amer­i­cans or jeop­ar­diz­ing U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity. U.S. of­fi­cials have noted that the five Tal­iban lead­ers are mid­dle-aged or older, were for­mer of­fi­cials in the Tal­iban gov­ern­ment and prob­a­bly wouldn’t be seen again on any bat­tle­field, although they could con­tinue to be ac­tive mem­bers of the Tal­iban.

Many law­mak­ers from both par­ties dis­ap­proved when the five de­tainees were swapped for Bergdahl. They com­plained that the White House did not give Congress a 30-day no­ti­fi­ca­tion of the trans­fer, which is re­quired by law. The White House said it couldn’t wait 30 days be­cause Bergdahl’s life was en­dan­gered.

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