State Dep’t: ‘Probably Very Good Reasons’ Not to Give Details of Taliban Deal With Qatar

By Patrick Goodenough | June 4, 2014 | 1:15 AM EDT

A photo on a Pasho-language news site purports to show the former Guantanamo Bay detainees being welcomed by Taliban officials in Qatar on Monday, June 2, 2014. (Photo:

( – Amid reports that Qatar will allow five senior Taliban terrorists freed from Guantanamo Bay in the controversial Bergdahl exchange to move around freely, a State Department spokeswoman on Tuesday repeatedly declined to discuss “specifics” of the agreement struck with Qatar.

Marie Harf said the deal involved “very sensitive diplomatic negotiations” involving the Gulf state and there were “probably very good reasons” not to make the details public.

“As more details are able to be shared, we will,” she told a briefing. “But we as an administration looked at the agreement and certified – as we have in many other cases of Guantanamo detainees being sent home, both in this administration and last – that the threat had been mitigated.”

“Obviously, we’re not going to get into the specifics of the agreement,” Harf said. “But this is an agreement between the head of the government of Qatar [Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani] and the president of the United States, a very high-level agreement about working to mitigate the notion that these five guys will be able to return to the battlefield.”

In Poland earlier Tuesday, President Obama stated that the release of the five “was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eyes on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities.”

But Reuters quoted a “senior Gulf source” as saying the five were being accommodated with their families in Doha, were free to move around the country, and after one year to leave the country if they wished.

“Are they able to roam free throughout Qatar?” Harf was asked.

“We’re not going to get into the specifics of what the agreement with Qatar looks like in any way,” she replied.

“The government of Qatar has been very clear, again, to the highest levels of this government, that there are going to be severe restrictions in place on them,” Harf continued. “I’m not going to outline what those are.”

Later, she added again, “I’m not going to go into the details of their situation in Qatar in any way.”

A reporter suggested that, “if everything was on the up and up,” then Qatar would not care if some details were released.

“That’s not a fair assumption to make,” Harf replied. “We don’t talk about the details of many detainees we send back to their countries for a variety of reasons.”

But these aren’t as high-profile cases as this one was,” the reporter countered.

“Again, we feel assured by the agreement we’ve put in place,” Harf said.

The five Taliban men freed at the weekend all held influential positions in the regime that controlled most of Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until ousted by U.S.-led forces al-Qaeda attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001.

Two of them, former military chief Mohammed Fazl and former governor of northern Balkh province Norullah Noori, are accused of involvement in the massacre of thousands of minority Shia.

The others are former deputy intelligence minister Abdul Haq Wasiq; former governor of Herat province Khairullah Khairkhwa; and Mohammed Nabi, whose Taliban regime posts included that of chief of security in Zabul province in the south.

Afghanistan’s Tolo TV described the five as “close companions” of Taliban leader Mohammed Omar.

The Taliban attributed the release of the five men “from the enemy’s clutch” to “the benevolence of Allah Almighty and the sacrifices of the heroic and courageous mujahidin of the Islamic Emirate.”

The administration released the five in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, captured in 2009 by the Haqqani network, a terrorist group with close ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The network is affiliated to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda but has been in existence for longer than both.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow