were not actually captured in Afghanistan, but were instead detained abroad as they returned from Qatar – just as the Taliban claimed.
Anas Haqqani and Qari Abdul Rasheed Omari were active in the fight when they were captured last October. It would be unreasonable to assume that their trip to Qatar was merely a social call. Qatar is a hotbed for jihadist fundraising. And the “Taliban Five” are rock stars in the jihadist world, meaning they could easily do some fundraising for the jihad if they wanted. While we don’t know exactly what transpired, it is unlikely that the youngest Haqqani and the junior Omari would risk such a trip unless there was something to be gained.
As the controversy over the exchange of the “Taliban Five” for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl continues to swirl, there are two ways to look at these reports
On the plus side, the U.S. has an electronic noose around the five ex-Gitmo detainees and is, therefore, able to detect their all-too-predictable return to militancy.
On the down side, the deal to keep them in Qatar runs out later this year. In all likelihood, it will be more difficult to track them then. In the meantime, their current environment is still hospitable for their preferred line of work. Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.