A senior Gulf official speaking to Reuters has said the five Guantánamo detainees traded for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl are being kept in an “accommodation facility” and will be allowed to roam freely in Qatar before moving to other parts of the world. The claim undermines President Obama’s claim that they will be monitored.
The five Taliban officials, all considered to be highly dangerous to the interests of the United States, were welcomed warmly by Qatari citizens after being released by the United States government, according to video footage released online of the arrival. They are expected to remain in Qatar for one year.
A senior official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters Tuesday that these individuals will indeed be allowed to move freely within Qatar, though they will not be able to leave the country during that one-year term. “All five men received medical checks, and they now live with their families in an accommodation facility in Doha… they can move around freely within the country,” affirmed the source. After that term, they are free to leave the country – even return to Afghanistan, the source noted.
The new claims contradict those by the Obama Administration that the Taliban members would be closely monitored upon their release. As Fox News explains, “if true, Qatar’s plans are likely to stir concerns from Washington, particularly from GOP lawmakers who warned that these prisoners could return to the battlefield.” The trade, President Obama contended, “was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eyes on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities.” The President nonetheless conceded that there was “absolutely” a risk that the Taliban members would return to the battlefield and pose a threat to the United States.
The trade of five Taliban members considered highly dangerous for Bergdahl, who many of his colleagues argue intended to desert his company when captured by the Taliban, has not only sparked controversy for the inherent risk in such a trade, but because Congress was not informed that negotiations were underway. A senior aide to the President apologized to Congress on his behalf for having kept the information secret Tuesday.