[guest post by Dana]
During a classifed briefing on Bowe Bergdahl, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin was asked whether he had confidence that the five Taliban members won’t kill any Americans. Durbin responded,
“How can you say that? How can I say that anybody interviewing me is not going to kill an American? I will just tell you that when it comes down to it, they have been members of the Taliban, they were our enemies, and that’s why they were detained. We have taken some steps to try to monitor their conduct through Qatar for at least one year, and that’s where we are. Thats why I don’t think this was an easy call. There’s the other side of this equation.”
Hm, so they have been members of the Taliban? They were our enemies? Are they no longer part of the Taliban? Did they turn in their membership cards and that’s why they are also no longer our enemies?
And, about those efforts to monitor their conduct through Qatar? Well, now that we know they will be able to move around freely within the country, I’m having doubts about the use of the word monitor.
The Gulf official said the Taliban men, who have been granted Qatari residency permits, will not be treated like prisoners while in Doha and no U.S. officials will be involved in monitoring their movement while in the country.
Further, according to this report, the release of the five Taliban members has given the Taliban a desperately needed shot of hope in its demoralized arm. Taliban commander Mullah Salem Khan was elated about the release of former deputy defense minister in charge of all Taliban troops in northern Afghanistan, Mullah Mohammad Fazil.
“His return is like pouring 10,000 Taliban fighters into the battle on the side of jihad. Now the Taliban have the right lion to lead them in the final moment before victory in Afghanistan. While Mullah Fazil was in the Guantanamo cages we kept his name living, and under the banner of ‘Mazloom Mahaz’”—one of Fazil’s noms de guerre—“more than 20 fronts were and are active in jihad in three provinces.”
“Mullah Fazil was a military tycoon and very close to Mullah Omar,” says Khan. “His freedom will definitely inspire the whole Taliban moment.
Regardless of where they are, the liberation of Mullah Fazil and Mullah Norullah will give new spine to the Taliban so they can make war more aggressively.
You might scoff, what’s the big deal? They’re in Qatar being monitored… no worries. Surely, after 12 long years as prisoners, these guys are catching up on some R & R in the air conditioned lounges of Qatar.
As for the supposed guarantee that the five Guantanamo inmates will not rejoin the Taliban, that’s taken as a joke. “As soon as they arrived in Qatar they rejoined the Taliban,” says Khan. “We don’t care about U.S. conditions and obstacles.”
“There are dozens of ways to lead the Taliban, even from overseas,” says a former official in Taliban intelligence. “In fact, after 9/11, some 95 percent of the leadership are not actually on the ground in Afghanistan.” The official said, “Skype, phones, the Internet, although made by the West, can easily bridge the communication gap,” allowing the reorganization of Taliban military momentum: “Officially their bodies would be in Qatar, but thoughts and wisdom of jihad would be with us.”
In this, I agree with Durbin: There definitely are two sides to the equation.