Travel ban for 'Taliban 5' ends Sunday
The 5 Taliban prisoners exchanged for accused deserter Bowe Bergdahl will be able to travel anywhere in the world unless the US and Qatar can come to an agreement about their continued stay in the Gulf country.
The agreement that led to the terrorist's release banned them from traveling outside of Qatar and also stipulated certain survellance procedures that Qatar must follow.
Despite all of that, at least one of the prisoners made contact with the Taliban earlier this year.
A diplomatic source told CNN early Friday evening that U.S. and Qatari officials will have a final, decisive meeting Saturday about what to do about the five men.
Qatar is willing to extend the agreement under exactly the same terms, but will not renegotiate the terms, the source said. The Americans are sending signals they want to add additional surveillance and more restrictions on their movement.
"[Qatar] will keep them if both parties agree and if there are the same conditions of the old agreement," the source said. "[Qatar is] not going to add other terms because [Qatar is] not going to make it more complicated for [themselves]."
The source said that although U.S., Afghanistan and Qatar are the main parties, the Taliban do have a say and are welcome to stay in Qatar, noting the five have brought their families to Qatar and now total about 70 people among them. The source emphasized Qataris will not send them back to Afghanistan if the men don't want to return to Afghan government control.
The detainee swap for Bergdahl, criticized in many quarters, has become increasingly controversial following a report published by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper earlier this year saying an intelligence agency judged that a prisoner released in the exchange had since contacted the Taliban.
The looming deadline intensified some Republicans' attacks on the decision to make the trade.
A pair of top Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee -- Mac Thornberry of Texas and Vicky Hartzler of Missouri -- said in a statement Friday that the swap for Bergdahl endangered U.S. troops.
"On Sunday, the (Obama) Administration's flimsy restrictions on these terrorists will expire. This will endanger our troops abroad and our families at home. Understanding why and how this came about is the responsibility of the Congress, one we intend to carry out," they said.
With the Qatari government cozying up to the Taliban, you have to wonder how much we can trust them to keep an eye on the prisoners. There is apparently little effort to screen visitors, as the group of 70 "family members" now staying with the prisoners shows. And since none of the Taliban have given any indication that they will not go back to terrorism if given the chance, the idea that anything the Qatar government does will deter their return to terrorism is a fantasy.
The US and Qatar will likely paper over their differences and the Taliban 5 will stay where they are. But they belong at Gitmo where they will be safely behind bars, unable to hurt our soldiers or civilians again.