[guest post by Dana]
Earlier this week, I posted about safety concerns regarding the five released Taliban members who are being monitored in Qatar.
And while President Obama and his national security Cabinet may have publicly expressed confidence in the agreement with Qatar and their charge to monitor the five, not everyone is on board. Some U.S. military and intelligence officials are questioning the wisdom of the decision.
U.S. officials have had long-standing concerns that Qatar has often turned a blind eye to terrorist financing inside its borders and failed to keep track of a former Guantanamo inmate who was transferred to the emirate at the end of the Bush administration. “We know that many wealthy individuals in Qatar are raising money for jihadists in Syria every day,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “We also know that we have sent detainees to them before, and their security services have magically lost track of them.”
In other words, Qatar is simply not reliable.
In 2008, when the Bush administration transferred Jaralla al-Marri, a Qatari citizen who spent six years in U.S. captivity, from Guantanamo to Qatar, Doha provided similar assurances to the ones it has provided about the Gitmo 5.
But less than six months after the July 2008 transfer, al-Marri traveled to the United Kingdom ostensibly to go on a speaking tour with other former Guantanamo detainees. In a February 26, 2009, cable from the U.S. Embassy in Doha, the State Department complained that Qatar was not living up to its promises.
“Al-Marri was returned to Qatar from Guantanamo Bay in July 2008, with the explicit understanding (made via exchange of diplomatic notes) that he would be subject to a travel ban, and that the GOQ would notify the USG if al-Marri sought to travel,” said the cable, first disclosed by WikiLeaks. “Reftel gave post’s assessment, now clearly wrong, that the GOQ would honor these assurances.” GOQ refers to Government of Qatar.
The U.S. government had serious suspicions about al-Marri but couldn’t prove much. His 2007 Pentagon dossier—first disclosed by WikiLeaks—says al-Marri was evasive when asked about money transfers to his brother, who was suspected of being a sleeper agent inside the United States. The dossier, however, only asserts that al-Marri traveled to al Qaeda training camps and guest houses, and concludes he is a “medium risk” to harm U.S. allies.
But now, we are faced with those who would easily be considered high risk. Asking the obvious, what on earth is there to prevent them from returning to the fold, hence their hostilities toward America and its interests?
Yet another reason for concern is Qatar’s fertile fundraising ground for various terrorist groups.
Late last year, the Treasury Department placed sanctions on Abdul Rahman Omeir al-Naimi, a Qatari history professor and human rights activist, for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for al Qaeda’s affiliates in Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen.
In March, David Cohen, the undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a speech to the Center for a New American Security that while Qatar is a longtime U.S. ally, it also has “for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability.” Cohen also referenced press reports that indicated Qatar’s support for extremists in Syria.
The State Department’s latest report on counterterrorism says that while Qatar has cooperated with the United States in some important areas of counterterrorism, its efforts to stop fundraising for terrorist groups have been inconsistent. “Qatari-based terrorist fundraisers, whether acting as individuals or as representatives of other groups, were a significant terrorist financing risk and may have supported terrorist groups in countries such as Syria,” the report said.
As a reminder, President Obama in the Rose Garden last weekend:
We’ve worked for several years to achieve this goal, and earlier this week, I was able to personally thank the Amir of Qatar for his leadership in helping us get it done. As part of this effort, the United States is transferring five detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security.
Respectfully, President Obama, I am not remotely reassured by your confidence in the Qatari government’s assurances of protection.
P.S. According U.S. intelligence officials, the deal made with Qatar permits the U.S government to participate in the monitoring of the five released detainees, however, the exact terms and conditions of any monitoring would first have to be approved by Qatari government.