Released Taliban officials vow to stay ‘loyal’ to Qatar agreement

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Five senior Taliban officials who recently arrived in Doha after being released from the American prison Guantanamo Bay have said they plan to uphold the agreement reached with Qatar involving their stay here.

The men are Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Khairullah Khairkhwa, and Mohammed Nabi Omari.

The officials were released last week in a prisoner swap that sent US solider Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive in Afghanistan for five years, back to the states.

In their first statement, the five men said, as translated from Urdu into English by Gulf Times:

“We want to assure all stakeholders that we are steadfast and loyal to the agreement between the Islamic Emirate and State of Qatar that was made specifically for our release (from Guantanamo Bay).”

The terms of that agreement have not been publicly disclosed by officials from either the US or Qatar, who have only said that the Taliban members would not be allowed to leave here for a year.

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Sources told the Washington Post that restrictions would include a ban on fundraising and “military incitement,” but declined to comment further. What is clear is that men will enjoy the same freedom of movement around Qatar as their fellow Taliban members.

In a press briefing earlier this week, US State Department spokesman Marie Harf said:

“It’s possible someone will see them on the streets of Qatar. But those types of activities don’t threaten our national security interests, and that’s the standard here about substantially mitigating the threat that they will pose. We’re confident in the Qataris that the restrictions agreed upon, and these individuals will be restricted from activities that pose a threat to our national security.”

Reaction

The prisoner swap has made many in the US nervous, spurring criticism of President Barack Obama for pushing through the swap, for fear that the Taliban members would begin plotting against the Western nation during their time in Qatar.

For now, however, the Taliban, who reunited with fellow members last week on the outskirts of Doha, appear to be keeping a low profile here.

According to the New York Times, members of the Taliban had been residing at the shuttered political office in Dafna up until two months ago. But they have since moved locations, and their official spokesman has not answered his phone in weeks, the newspaper states.

Analysts add that keeping the Taliban in line is as important to Qatar as it is to the US.

Speaking to the NYT, Michael Stephens, deputy director of the Royal United Services Institute in Qatar, said:

“The Qataris know the Americans are very concerned that a bunch of Taliban are not going to be able to run around, and they wouldn’t screw that up.”

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