By Jeremy Herb
The United States could release five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar as part of negotiations with the Taliban.
Eight Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), were briefed Tuesday by administration officials about the possible transfer of the Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo, Foreign Policy reported, the clearest sign that the first transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo in more than a year could occur.
“This proposed so-called trade has actually not been decided yet,” Clapper said. “There’s continued consultation with the Congress.
“In almost every case where we’ve had hostilities, ... at some point in time there are negotiations.
“I don’t think anyone in the administration harbors any illusions about the potential here. Of course, part and parcel of such a decision, if it were finally made, would be the actual determination of where these detainees might go and the conditions in which they would be controlled or surveilled.”
Afghan officials said they would drop an earlier objection about sending the prisoners to a third country because of a plan to give the country a form of legal custody over them, according to The Associated Press.
Al Jazeera reported last month that the Taliban’s leaders said they would step up their “political efforts” to secure peace in Afghanistan, but they did not intend to give up their armed struggle as a precondition for negotiations. The Taliban recently established a political office in Qatar.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was at Tuesday’s briefing, told Foreign Policy beforehand that the idea of a prisoner transfer is “highly questionable.”
“The whole idea that they’re going to ‘transfer’ these detainees in exchange for a statement by the Taliban? It is really, really bizarre,” McCain said. “This whole thing is highly questionable because the Taliban know we are leaving. I know many experts who would say they are rope-a-doping us.”