At least three of the five Taliban leaders released from Guantanamo Bay last year in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have tried to “re-engage” with their old terrorist networks, Fox News is reporting.
That disturbing news comes as the Army announced Wednesday that it was charging Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, charges which could land Bergdahl in prison for life if convicted.
Bergdahl went missing from his Army platoon in Afghanistan in June 2009. He was captured and turned over to the Taliban who held him until his release on May 31, 2014. Bergdahl’s release was part of a controversial deal for five Taliban commanders who were handed over to Qatari authorities. The “Taliban 5” will be under surveillance there until May.
But a U.S. government official told Fox that the three of the five commanders have reached out to members of their old terrorist networks. One of those commanders has come “very close, trying to provide advice, council or inspiration” to other terrorists.
The information came to light through intelligence and monitored communications, Fox reported.
The new information builds on a CNN report from January. The network reported that one of the Taliban leaders had made calls to militants. NBC News reported days after the prisoner swap that one of the Taliban leaders, Noorullah Noori, was insisting that he would return to the battlefield in Afghanistan to fight Americans. (RELATED: Report: Freed Taliban Commander Vows To Return To War Against US)
The Obama administration has maintained that the trade for Bergdahl was necessary given informal U.S. military policy against leaving soldiers behind on the battlefield. But a number of lawmakers — as well as the general public — criticized the swap saying that the five Guantanamo prisoners posed a threat of recidivism.
Fox’s report indicates those fears were warranted.
“I’ve seen nothing that causes me to believe these folks are reformed or [have] changed their ways or intend to re-integrate to society in ways to give me any confidence that they will not return in trying to do harm to America,” Kansas U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo told Fox News.
But other U.S. officials contend that the Taliban leaders’ actions in Qatar should not be considered “re-engagement.”
“None of the five individuals has returned to the battlefield and none of the five have left Qatar,” one official told Fox. “Since their transfer many actions have been taken to restrict the actions of these individuals, and they are all being closely monitored by the United States and Qatar.”
“We are in frequent and high level contact with Qatari government about the implementation of these measures, to ensure our concerns about these individuals are being met. For example, by enabling us to closely track their activities,” the official added.
According to Fox, the Office of the National Director of Intelligence would also not likely consider the Taliban leaders’ activities in Qatar as acts of re-engagement.
NDI does not consider “mere communication with individuals or organizations — including other former GTMO detainees — an indicator of reengagement.”
“Rather, the motives, intentions, and purposes of each communication are taken into account when assessing whether the individual has reengaged.”