The government of Qatar will extend its travel ban on five former Taliban leaders and Guantanamo Bay detainees who were freed last year in a controversial swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a senior State Department official said Sunday.
The agreement came as a one-year agreement to bar them from leaving Qatar was due to expire. The Obama administration is holding discussions with Qatar for a longer-term arrangement, but one has not been completed yet.
The State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said the United States is in “close contact” with Qatar officials as they try to iron out what to do with the five men to keep them from taking part in any actions against Americans. The official said they “continue to work to make sure these individuals do not pose a threat to the United States.”
In the meantime, the official said, Qatar “has agreed to maintain the current restrictive conditions on these individuals as we continue these discussions.”
All of the “Taliban Five” are residing in Qatar. Some of them have brought their families there, and as a group they number in the dozens. The five are being subjected to “extensive monitoring,” the official said.
They have been in Qatar since a deal was struck in May 2014 that freed Bergdahl, who spent five years in Taliban captivity after he walked off his base in Afghanistan. Bergdahl has been charged with desertion.
Qatar had agreed to take in the five and monitor their contacts while prohibiting them from traveling outside Qatar for a year.
Some members of Congress have criticized the administration for agreeing to release the five from the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and expressed concern about what could happened if the travel ban expired. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has described the former prisoners as the “hardest of the hard-core.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has said that at least one of the former prisoners met with militants in Qatar earlier this year.
He said other militants were attempting to make contact with the five men, in an apparent effort to get them to join the battle against the West again, Graham said.