Panetta cautious on release of Guantanamo Taliban

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says he will not approve the release of any Taliban from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison as part of Afghan peace talks unless he’s sure they won’t return to the battlefield.

Panetta is telling the Senate Armed Services Committee that no decisions have been made on such a release.

The Obama administration is considering the release of five top Taliban leaders from Guantanamo as a starting point for peace negotiations between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban movement in an effort to end the war.

The five would be sent to custody in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. Congressional Republicans oppose the release. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey says he backs reconciliation but worries about maintaining control of the released individuals.