During a hearing on Thursday, Democratic senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, publicly doubted the Obama administration’s decision to consider transferring five senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo to Qatar.
“Like a number of other members of the committee, I’ve expressed some real concern about the reports that the administration is considering transferring some Taliban detainees from Guantanamo to Qatar,” Levin said. “I’ve expressed this both publicly and to the administration—privately.”
Levin explained that “such transfers would be premature and should only be considered after the Taliban has engaged in positive discussions on reconciliation,” which they have yet to do.
There is “real concern by many members of this committee” about the possible transfers, Levin stated, as well as the “absence of a real showing of good faith” by the Taliban in the nascent peace talks.
The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee added that “even though they may be contained in Qatar” he was worried the five Taliban commanders “nonetheless would have an effect on the battle by some control, [or] by some propaganda that they might utilize and in other ways.”
The Taliban has reportedly demanded that the five most dangerous leaders of their organization held at Guantanamo be transferred before any reconciliation talks with the Obama administration move forward.
Intelligence officials have deemed all five to be “high” risks to the U.S. and its allies. During questioning, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that their “high” risk status has not changed.
A major goal of the peace talks, as expressed by the Obama administration officials, is to have the Taliban reject al Qaeda and its terrorism. Senior Taliban officials have shown no sign that they are willing to foreswear al Qaeda, however.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.