Former President Barack Obama’s administration, in exchange for deserter Bowe Bergdahl, transferred five high-level Taliban prisoners from the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay to Qatar, known for its Islamic terrorist-friendly environment.
David Ibsen, the executive director of the non-governmental Counter Extremism Project (CEP), indicated that Doha likely influenced the re-enagement in jihadist activities of former Guantánamo detainees sent to Qatar, including members of the infamous “Taliban Five” swapped for Bergdahl in May 2014.
At least seven former prisoners from the Guantánamo detention center, commonly known as Gitmo, are believed to have ended up in Qatar, which has allowed Islamic terrorist groups such as the Taliban to flourish within its borders. All seven former Gitmo prisoners who have operated in Qatar are affiliated with the Afghan Taliban.
Breitbart News learned from CEP that Taliban members have increasingly gravitated towards Qatar, attracted by the permissive environment. The Sunni-majority country may have facilitated the return to terror of the Taliban Five and the other former Gitmo detainees.
“Although it is not clear that Qatar directly facilitated detainees’ return to terrorist activities, Qatar has certainly failed in its obligation to sufficiently monitor the activities of the Taliban Five from Guantánamo,” Ibsen told Breitbart News. “Qatar signed an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with the U.S. in May 2014, obligating Qatar to monitor the activities of the Taliban Five.”
Moreover, the Qatari government provided the jihadists with subsidized housing and provisions in one of Doha’s most affluent neighborhoods, reveals a recently published CEP study, titled, “Qatar, Money, and Terror: Doha’s Dangerous Policies.”
Nevertheless, Ibsen highlighted a December 2015 U.S. House Armed Services Committee report that quotes the House Intelligence Committee as telling former President Obama that year: “The five former detainees have participated in activities that threaten U.S. and coalition personnel and are counter to U.S. national security interests — not unlike their activities before they were detained on the battlefield.”
“Several” of the Taliban Five members “are believed to have re-engaged in terrorist activities since arriving in Qatar,” points out the terrorism financing CEP study.
According to the Guantánamo Docket, a database maintained by the New York Times (NYT), the U.S. government transferred at least six Gitmo detainees to Qatar — the Taliban Five jihadists in 2014 and a Qatar-born terrorist linked to both the Taliban and its ally al-Qaeda in 2008.
A seventh former prisoner also affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda — Abdul Salam Zaeef — has been operating in Qatar since 2011 after the United States transferred to Afghanistan in 2005, noted Ibsen.
The CEP director told Breitbart News that five of the seven former Gitmo detainees transferred to Qatar, including at least three of the Taliban Five, “remain sanctioned by the United Nations and other governments and inter-governmental organizations.”
CEP noted that Qatar is a center of attraction for former Gitmo prisoners linked to the Taliban and overall high-ranking members of the terrorist group and their families. The Taliban even established an official office in Doha.
“Taliban officials have had an increasing presence in Qatar since approximately 2010. High-level Taliban officials and their families have reportedly moved to the country. Afghan diplomats in Doha have reported running into Taliban members on the street,” noted the NGO in a recently published study, titled “Qatar: Extremism & Counter-Extremism.”
“For example, Mullah Abdual Salam Zaif, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner and Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, reportedly moved from Afghanistan to Qatar in 2011. Sometime after 2010, the Taliban also reportedly maintained a diplomatic office in Doha until 2014. It was the only such office in the world,” it added.
Although the Qatari government claims to have shut down the Taliban office in Doha, the terrorist group is believed to be still operating it.
“Doha hosts the Taliban’s ‘political office,’ which the group opened in June 2013,” points out the CEP report on extremism in Qatar. “The Taliban has referred to the office as the only entity where Taliban negotiations are authorized to take place.”