The extension won’t likely last long, but at least the Taliban 5 won’t be able to board a flight back to Afghanistan today. Qatar extended their exile temporarily while negotiations over their status continue, but the five top Taliban commanders released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl won’t face an eternal travel ban — and three of them are already looking into rejoining the fight (via Katie Pavlich):
Qatar has agreed to temporarily extend travel bans on five senior Taliban leaders released last year from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a State Department official confirmed to Fox News Sunday. …
The official said the ban would remain in place until diplomatic talks for a longer-term solution are completed. The restrictions had been due to expire on Monday under a May 2014 exchange for Bergdahl. U.S. officials said Friday the Obama administration was closing in on an agreement with Qatar to extend the restrictions for six months that could be announced this weekend. It was not immediately clear why that agreement had not been finalized.
In March, Catherine Herridge reported for Fox that three of the five had re-engaged with Taliban forces from Qatar. At the time, the State Department tried playing games with the definition of “re-engagement”:
At least three of the five Taliban leaders traded last year for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have tried to plug back into their old terror networks, a government official familiar with the intelligence told Fox News, describing it as an attempt to “re-engage.” …
The official who described the attempts by three to make contact did not identify the men by name. But the evidence came to light through intelligence from liaison services and monitored communications available to the U.S. government.
A defense official did not dispute the claim, emphasizing that one of the men has come “very close, trying to provide advice, council or inspiration” to his terror network, while the other two had not crossed that line.
The “longer-term solution” would have been to keep them in Gitmo. Instead, we’re handing back part of the Taliban’s leadership in a huge propaganda coup right as we’re preparing to bug out of Afghanistan. The government in Kabul can’t be thrilled about this, which may be why Qatar has agreed to extend their enforced exile a few months longer.
That’s just delaying the inevitable, though. The Taliban has no reason to lay down arms now, and they’ve already largely won the propaganda war over Bowe Bergdahl and this trade anyway. The Obama administration has made it clear that they have no strategic interest in Afghanistan, and their only tactical interest is in how fast they can finally pull out once the fighting dies down enough to give the White House political cover. Another six months for these five high-value former detainees buys nothing except more breathing room for Barack Obama in domestic politics.
The New York Post blasted Barack Obama for the trade again this weekend:
It’s a reminder of just how bad a deal President Obama struck to free Bergdahl, the man the White House then hailed as a hero but who now faces criminal charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy — charges that could keep him behind bars for life.
Indeed, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal revealed last week for the first time that he’d been informed almost immediately after Bergdahl’s 2009 capture that the soldier “walked off [his base] intentionally.” …
The danger can’t be overemphasized: These were all senior commanders — one a deputy defense minister, another head of intelligence. At least one has been in touch with the Taliban and two others have met with the al Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani network in the past year.
Now these five terrorists, let go to bring an accused deserter home, may be free to once again target American soldiers. Some bargain, Mr. President.