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06 June 2014

Here We Go! One Of The Taliban 5 Freed In Exchange For Bergdahl Pledges To Fight Americans, Again

 Who didn't know this would happen?

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – One of the five Taliban leaders freed from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release has pledged to return to fight Americans in Afghanistan, according to a fellow militant and a relative. 

“After arriving in Qatar, Noorullah Noori kept insisting he would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there,” a Taliban commander told NBC News via telephone from Afghanistan.

Noori pushed to return to Afghanistan after learning that the U.S. had provided written assurances that no country would arrest any of the five freed for a year as long as they lived peacefully, one of his relatives told NBC News by telephone from Afghanistan. 

Under the terms of the deal, the former commanders would remain under the control of the government of Qatar for one year and be subject to “restrictions on their movement and activities,” a senior U.S. official has told NBC News –- including a one-year travel ban. A diplomatic source later told NBC News that their movements within the Arab emirate are not restricted.

The news comes amid a fierce debate on Capitol Hill over whether the Obama administration should have traded Bergdahl for the five commanders held at Guantanamo. Former members of Bergdahl’s platoon have described him as a deserter who walked away from his outpost. 

Among the Taliban, the commanders’ release was treated as a victory.

“We thought we may not see them again as once you land in the hands of Americans, it’s difficult to come out alive,” Noori’s relative said. “But it was a miracle that Allah Almighty gave us Bergdahl and we got back our heroes.”

Unexpectedly, of course!!!

Or not...

From Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard:

No risk to America’s security?

Michael Leiter, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center under Obama, said it was “very, very likely” that the five Taliban leaders would return to the fight.

Even Obama, after downplaying the threat, conceded that “absolutely” there was a chance they would take up arms against America.


The other side of that opportunity was the transfer of five senior Taliban commanders from captivity in Guantánamo to relative freedom in Qatar. The Taliban had been seeking the release of these five officials—plus another who died in prison—for more than three years. The assessments of the men conducted by Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF-GTMO) found that each one presented a “high risk” of returning to the battle if he were released. Other detainees had been assessed as lesser threats, and some had even been cleared for release. Not these prisoners. 

“All five of those guys are exceptionally dangerous,” says Paul Rester, the former lead interrogator at Joint Task Force Guantánamo. “These are men who ran entire regions for the Taliban, they had thousands of fighters under their command. They survived the Soviets, they survived the civil war, they survived us, they survived Sam Scott’s Gitmo chicken.” 

Rester and his team were responsible for the threat assessments of the detainees. An experienced interrogator, Rester got his start during the Vietnam war and first interviewed mujahedeen in the 1980s when the United States saw them as allies against the Soviet Union. Rester interrogated many of those at Guantánamo and in some cases got to know them well. He and his team rewrote their assessments every year. 

“Those assessments only tell the story of how they constitute a risk to us,” he says. “They don’t tell you how they are revered in the population. They can think rings around us in that environment.” 

When Obama came to Washington, he made clear that one of the immediate goals of his presidency would be to close the facility at Guantánamo. So the president set up his own team, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, made up of lawyers, military officers, intelligence analysts, and diplomats, who would make recommendations to the president about how to handle individual prisoners.

JTF-GTMO’s job was to assess each detainee’s intent and ability to harm the United States, its interests, and its allies. Its assessments were done by men and women who were chiefly concerned with prosecuting a war. The Guantánamo Review Task Force’s mandate was different. It was established simultaneously with President Obama’s order to shutter the facility in one year. That deadline proved impractical, but the task force was formed for the purpose of closing Guantánamo. Clearly, the task force was willing to accept more risk in detainee transfers than JTF-GTMO. Indeed, the task force recommended that dozens of detainees who were deemed “high risk” by JTF-GTMO be transferred.

But even the Obama team recommended that 48 of the remaining Guantánamo detainees be held indefinitely. All five Taliban commanders that Obama released last week were in this group.

For Rester, that’s significant. “We had the best military analysts on the planet look at these guys and recommend against transfer,” he says. “And then Obama’s team—this administration’s most knowledgeable, courageous, and liberal legal minds came to the same conclusion. They could not bring themselves to recommend these guys for transfer or release.” 

Many of the intelligence officials who have worked on Guantánamo agree with them. In a hearing on June 4, Clapper was asked to assess the likelihood that these individuals would return to the fight on a scale of 1 to 10. Clapper gave one of the men an 8 and the other four a 9.

But Obama and his team are telling the public a different story. “I will not sign off on any detainee coming out of Guantánamo unless I am assured .  .  . that we can sufficiently mitigate any risk to American security,” said Hagel on Meet the Press.  

Those risks are not mitigated. They’re enhanced. 

“Unless the goal is to increase the combat power of the enemy, they should have remained under U.S. government control,” says one former intelligence official who worked on Guantánamo issues. “Those five in particular should have remained at Guantánamo at least until the last U.S. military person [in Afghanistan] has been withdrawn.” 

UPDATE: Latest White House Excuse For Breaking The Law With Gitmo Release: The Taliban Told Us To – Update: Now Admits There Was No Specific Threat Requiring Them To Hide Deal From Congress…

(NRO) - A State Department spokeswoman admitted to reporters that President Obama’s team had no specific information suggesting that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s life would be in danger if news of the recent prisoner swap went public before the exchange took place, even though the Obama team has cited the danger to Bergdahl as a reason for declining to give Congress the legally required advance notice.

“There were real concerns that if this were made public first, his physical security could be in danger more by either the Taliban walking away or about an individual Taliban member who perhaps was guarding him – again, I’m speaking generally, not in reference to any specific piece of information – but someone guarding him that possibly wouldn’t agree and could take harmful action against him,” spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Thursday.

Harf’s public statement seems to contradict the claim made by an anonymous administration official “that we had both specific and general indications that Sgt. Bergdahl ’s recovery — and potentially his life — could be jeopardized if the detainee exchange proceedings were disclosed or derailed,” as reported in the Associated Press. She also reiterated the administration’s explanation that a proof-of-life video suggested that Bergdahl’s health was declining.

Just lovely.

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