Categories: International Middle-East News

‘Taliban 5’: Former Guantanamo Bay Prisoners Take Political Office

Rabat - Five senior Taliban members, former prisoners in the US Guantanamo Bay prison, are set to join the Taliban’s political office in Qatar.

By Trista Youssef

On Tuesday, October 30, Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced the former detainees will join the Taliban’s political office in Doha.

The Taliban’s Qatar office opened in 2013 at the US request to open up negotiations with the Taliban over Afghanistan’s political future.

US officials had released the five members from Guantanamo Bay in 2014 in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier the Taliban held captive for nearly five years.

US intelligence officials consider the five members a security threat. Since their 2014 release, Qatar has hosted the group under strict limitations, including restrictions on political involvement—until now.

Some view the political involvement of the “Taliban five” as a potential step toward peace talks between the US and the Taliban. But others fear the group will maintain its ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam, an interpretation that characterized the insurgent group’s five-year rule of Afghanistan ending in 2001.

Hourin Mir, a political analyst in Kabul, stated: “The Taliban are bringing back their old generation, which means the Taliban have not changed their thinking or their leadership.…What we are more worried about is if tomorrow the Taliban say ‘we are ready to negotiate,’ who will represent Kabul? That is the big challenge because the government is so divided, not just ideologically but on ethnic lines.”

Washington showed its resolve to end its involvement in the nearly $900 billion Afghanistan war with the appointment of Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad as envoy in early September.

Khalilzad and Taliban officials held meetings in mid October. According to senior Taliban officials, the US agreed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Political analysts speculate that a deal between the Taliban and the US will not end the conflict. The divided Afghan government and the Taliban must also come to a domestic agreement.