The United States released the men from Guantanamo in exchange for
American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, held prisoner in Afghanistan for
five years. Under the terms of the swap, mediated in secret by
Qatar, the leaders must remain in the Gulf kingdom under
surveillance for at least a year.
Domestic critics of President Barack Obama's decision say the men
could return to the battlefield in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is
winding down its 13-year military presence. The chance that they may
remain in Qatar could assuage those concerns.
"It's very likely that the five men will be asking to stay in Doha
even after their one-year travel ban ends," said one source who had
received reports of contacts with the men.
Diplomats and Qatari sources say the men are in a "safe location"
within a guarded compound in Doha, where they have received medical
care and have reunited with their families.
They have been allowed to receive guests from the Afghan community
in Qatar, including Taliban members who were previously living in
Doha, the sources said. Qatari authorities have prevented all media
[to top of second column]
According to diplomats, the five men, who lack passports, have yet
to approach the Afghan embassy in the Qatari capital Doha to acquire
them. Sources close to the men say they have avoided contact with
Afghan and Pakistani officials.
"So far they haven't asked for political asylum, but it's just too
early to tell and, besides, not many countries would accept them
even after the travel ban ends," said an Afghan source familiar with
Another Afghan source, living in Doha, said: "They owe their loyalty
for their freedom to Qatar and not anyone else, so why should they
make contact that would only cause them trouble?"
The five, who had been held at the American Guantanamo Bay prison in
Cuba since 2002, arrived in Qatar last week. U.S. security personnel
handed them over to Qatari authorities at a U.S. military base west
(Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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