Daily Beast national security reporter Eli Lake discussed the concerning elements of the agreement by Qatar to keep the five newly freed Taliban commanders under house arrest as promised or whether they might “magically disappear” under its watch.
The “Taliban Five” were let go as part of a deal to retrieve Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity.
Qatar has a poor track record in keeping its word in these situations. Lake reported on one freed former Gitmo prisoner in 2008 who was repatriated to Qatar but was allowed just months later to tour the United Kingdom and publicly complain about poor treatment by the U.S., greatly upsetting American officials. Lake wrote, “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.”
“That’s sort of the red flag number one,” Lake said on Fox News’ The Real Story.
Another concern about Qatar is known terrorist financing there.
“One of the groups for which there’s raising money is al Qaeda, which is obviously a very close ally of the Taliban,” Lake said. “And in that respect, that is a major red flag as well, which is that they still see individuals who are roaming free who have raised a lot of money for al Qaeda, Hamas and other groups like that.
Privately, many U.S. military and intelligence officials say it’s unwise to rely on Qatar to monitor the Gitmo 5. 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.”
GRETCHEN CARLSON: U.S. spies now raising concerns, serious concerns about Qatar, the Gulf kingdom that received those five Taliban commanders, and whether that country will honor their commitment to keep the prisoners under house arrest for years as promised, or as one U.S. official put it let them, quote, magically disappear. All this according to an article by our next guest, Eli L ake. Should we be nervous about the efforts of the country, Qatar, in helping us?
ELI LAKE: There’s two elements that are troubling to the U.S. intelligence committee. The first is a track record. In 2008, another Guantanamo detainee not considered to be as dangerous as the Taliban five was repatriated to Qatar and there was an understanding that he would be watched and monitored and not allowed to leave the country. Less than five months after he arrives in Doha, the capital of Qatar, he embarks on a tour of the United Kingdom, with a group called Caged Prisoners, where he’s discussing in public how he was tortured and treated very badly when he was at Guantanamo, and this was a violation of the explicit understanding of his transfer to Qatar. Wikileaks has disclosed U.S. diplomatic cables that show the frustration of U.S. officials at the time, so that’s sort of the red flag number one.
CARLSON: So the track record is troubling, and he was considered to be a medium risk. Now you have these five Taliban commanders who by everyone’s assessment are high risk. So the U.S. is supposed to monitor them, kind of, right?
LAKE: Well, the U.S. has a lot of capabilities in Qatar because there are two very important military bases. One is the operating base for all of U.S. Central Command and also the combined air headquarters for Central Command as well in Qatar. So there’s a lot of U.S. equipment and people and material and so forth in Qatar that would make it possible to monitor them. But the arrangement, as my sources are telling me, says that any kind of monitoring that the U.S. would actually do of these five former detainees would have to be approved by the Qatar security services. Now, it should be said that Qatar has a new emir and he’s considered maybe more friendly to Western interests. He’s been on the throne for about a year now. But that said, there still is a major issue with just terrorist financing in Qatar, which is a related problem. One of the groups for which there’s raising money is al Qaeda, which is obviously a very close ally of the Taliban. And in that respect, that is a major red flag as well, which is that they still see individuals who are roaming free who have raised a lot of money for al Qaeda, Hamas and other groups like that.