The travel ban for the five Taliban honchos traded to secure the freedom of accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl was due to expire on June 1 but, according to CBS News, the government of Qatar has agreed to temporarily extend the ban and keep the “Taliban 5” under what amounts to house arrest.
“For the moment, the five will remain in Doha while diplomacy continues,” CBS writes, quoting a senior State Department official. “Qatar has not yet agreed to allow them and their dozens of family members to stay. All five are Afghan citizens. Some may want to go home, while others might choose to stay in Doha.”
“Going home” isn’t the problem; returning to the battlefield is. The Obama Administration claims the five are “mid-level bureaucrats with no operational value to the Taliban,” and their full release poses no security risk whatsoever – they are just worried about the “U.S. domestic political blowback.”
In other words, this is only a big deal because American critics of the Administration let the Five return to their peaceful mid-level bureaucratic lives. This disregards the fact that the Taliban 5 were, as the New York Post notes, “all senior commanders — one a deputy defense minister, another head of intelligence.” They weren’t filling out TPS reports for the Taliban equivalent of Initech. They nearly immediately made efforts to re-establish contact with the Taliban and Haqqani Network during their comfortable time-out in Qatar.
Even the United Nations is maintaining a travel ban on four of the five subjects, in addition to freezing their assets. The U.N. also reported that several of the subjects have been circumventing its sanctions, apparently including the travel ban.
Fox News says the extended travel ban will last “until diplomatic talks for a longer-term solution are completed.” Going into the weekend, there were rumors the Administration wanted an extra six months, but for some reason a deal could not be finalized in time for a formal announcement.
The CBS report mentions one of the considerations in working out a final arrangement for the Taliban prisoners is the Administration’s desire to avoid implying that the current U.S.-supported government in Kabul would not be able to keep them from committing crimes. The notion that anyone working for the United States government seriously believes Kabul could keep these five commanders out of trouble is terrifying.
Fox News also reports that the battle over the White House’s unilateral, and possibly illegal, swap of the Taliban 5 for Bergdahl continues, with the House Armed Services Committee putting $500 million of Pentagon funding on the chopping block, if more documents are not released concerning the trade, with fewer redactions.
“This release was a complete overreach by the White House, ignoring U.S. law,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), before Qatar’s extension of the travel ban was announced. “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.”