Does the US government know where the Taliban 5 are?
You'll recall that after we swapped 5 Guantanamo terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl, we were told that we'd be able to keep track of the released prisoners through Qatar. The terrorists were prevented from leaving Qatar for a year, according to the deal we made.
Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast was in Doha, Qatar attending a conference when he decided to go look for the elusive Taliban 5 and ask them a couple of questions.
After following some false leads, Rogin engaged a driver and set out to find them:
So Tuesday afternoon, I enlisted the help of two Arabic speaking friends, hired a driver (a Bangladeshi man who spoke no Arabic), and headed to the al-Muaither neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, where several news reports had said the Taliban former prisoners were reuniting with their families at an undisclosed luxury compound.
Bordering the desert, the al-Muaither neighborhood was a loose conglomeration of modest houses and high-end compounds littered with expensive cars. On the main drag were a series of strip malls, one of which contained a restaurant called Afghan Brothers. Might the Taliban have gotten sick of home cooking and ordered out? We had our driver wait while we went in to investigate.
After lightly interrogating a couple of the delivery boys at Afghan Brothers, we realized we had hit a dead end. None of the restaurant staff we met were Afghan and none had remembered selling food to any Afghans in the area, much less the five Afghans we were hunting.
We drove around the neighborhood searching for signs of a compound like no other. A robust police presence or elaborate surveillance cameras, for example, might signal the place where five high level Taliban officials were holed up. While we were cruising al-Muaither, we planned out what to ask the Taliban Five, if we found them, considering it would likely be a very short ambush style interview.
“Do you support Hillary Clinton for President,” was one idea tossed around. If they said yes, that would be big news.
“What word makes you laugh?” we thought might be a way to humanize these often-demonized figures.
After about an hour of peering into random compounds, we owned up to the futility of that tactic, but we had one more trick up our sleeve. We directed our driver to take us to the official Taliban representative office, the very same one that opened briefly in June 2013 in advance of what were to be direct U.S.-Taliban talks, but closed the same day after Hamid Karzai threw a tantrum over the embassy like sign on the front, which read “The Islamic State of Afghanistan.”
It turns out that the Taliban office was deserted except for one, angry policemen who shouted at the group as they fled.
Bottom line: We don't know where the Taliban 5 are and it is unknown if the government of Qatar knows where they are either.
We might be tracking them via signals intelligence, or even drones but that would require tasking from the intelligence agencies. And you have to wonder: Just how eager is the Obama administration to know where the Taliban 5 are and what they're up to?