What's next for the prisoners who were swapped for Bowe Bergdahl

What's next for the prisoners who were swapped for Bowe Bergdahl?

Posted:
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Freed Taliban POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Freed Taliban POW
By Rebecca Kaplan / CBS NEWS / June 2, 2014

CBS NEWS: The five Taliban leaders who were swapped for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are likely to return to the organization after a yearlong stay in Qatar mandated by the deal, experts say.

That possibility - which current and former U.S. officials raised on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday - has cast a shadow over excitement at Bergdahl's return after five years in Taliban captivity.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said of the five detainees on CBS News "Face the Nation": "These are the hardest of the hardcore."

The five former detainees include founders of the movement, senior commanders and one who could be prosecuted for war crimes because he presided over the mass killing of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.

CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin called the prisoner exchange a "get-out-of-jail-free card" for the five who were held at the Guantanamo Bay prison for over a decade. They are expected to enjoy a relatively comfortable life in Qatar, the Gulf emirate that helped broker the deal between the U.S. and the Taliban and will take custody of the men for a year. The Taliban leadership said in a press release that the men will live with their families.

Some members of Congress have called into question how secure the men will be within Qatar, which a senior defense official said has given the U.S. "appropriate assurances" it will be able to secure the detainees.

That is very likely, despite the concern, said Thomas Sanderson, the co-director and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Transnational Threats Project.

Qatar is a wealthy nation with strong security capabilities and ties to many actors in the Middle East on all sides of the political spectrum. It also hosts a major U.S. air base.

"This is a place that can easily control who comes and goes in their country. I don't think that there's any chance that these guys are going to slip out of the country," Sanderson said.

"Qatar is extremely mindful that in order to be viewed as an extremely reliable go between for the future and to continue to be seen as a reliable partner to the U.S. they have to keep up their end of the bargain here."

For the first year, there will be major U.S. pressure on the Qatari government to ensure the Taliban leaders remain in the country - particularly from President Obama. Once that year is up, however, the pressure will switch, with the Afghan Taliban and its allies in Pakistan working to ensure the men are released from custody as planned, Sanderson said.

With Qatar looking to boost its role on the world stage as a mediating power, the country will have to "walk right down the middle" of its relationship with both the U.S. and the Taliban, which nearly opened a political office in Doha, the Qatari capital, in 2013.

Once the yearlong waiting period is up, experts expect the leaders will return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan, although
CBS News National Security Analyst Juan Zarate raised the possibility they could remain in Qatar, which some political and diplomatic officials in the Taliban have chosen to do.

"It's altogether possible that these gentlemen decide it's pretty comfortable, they have enough freedom to operate, enough freedom to communicate with their Taliban comrades out of Qatar, and decide not to leave," Zarate said.

The men could also serve as emissaries of the Taliban in other parts of the world to raise money and build political capital for the group, which is when their release begins to be problematic, Zarate added.

And while integration back into the Taliban organization is likely, it's unclear how quickly or completely that will happen.

"Whether or not they'll assume immediately a commanding post will be very interesting," Zarate said.

"The Taliban has obviously evolved over time. It's a bit more fractured than in the past, and there are other leaders who have taken a prominent role in the Taliban's campaign in Afghanistan as well as some of the activity in Pakistan, so whether or not they'll be able to jump right back into some sort of commanding role that mimics what they were doing in the past I think is a different question."

At a minimum, they will certainly provide political and fundraising value to the movement, he said.

Sanderson also suggested it might take time for the five men to reintegrate back into the fold. They might be viewed with suspicion because of the time they spent in American captivity, or find themselves edged out by other leaders who have risen in the ranks in their absence.

"They also have to deal with their own politics. It's not that they might be viewed as legitimately having been compromised, but these guys could not have influence anymore," Sanderson said. The current leadership could be considering the possibility of peace negotiations with the U.S. and Afghan governments, and unwelcome of more hard-line forces.

A former Guantanamo detainee who was released to the Afghan government in 2007 and set free a year later, Abdul Qayyum Zakir, returned to the Taliban and became a senior commander by 2010. But he resigned his post earlier this year, reportedly over deepening tensions with some of the more moderate Taliban leaders who wanted to pursue peace talks with Kabul, the Wall Street Journal reported.

If the men do become involved in the Taliban leadership or other known terrorist groups, Zarate said the U.S. will monitor them as much as possible. The government "has an assortment of tools to use to include arrests or in the battlefield actually killing these individuals if they are engaged in lethal activities."

And to the extent that the release might facilitate further peace talks with the Afghan government in Kabul, Zarate said the deal will help build trust between the U.S. and the Taliban but not necessarily between the Taliban and the government in Kabul.

The Afghan government "was not involved in this deal," Zarate pointed out. "The Afghan government at the end of the day is going to have to reconcile or come to some political agreement with the Taliban if that's to come to pass, and in some ways this deal undercuts faith and confidence in the Afghan government itself," he said.

"This was the U.S. and the Taliban, not the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban engaged in this prisoner swap. That then becomes problematic long term for the Afghan government."

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
  • Father beats accused child abuser, Daytona police say

    Father beats accused child abuser, Daytona police say

    Police say a Daytona Beach father beat an 18-year-old man unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his son. Authorities say the father called 911 early Friday after he walked in on the alleged abuse.Frolander motionless on the living room floor. He had several knots on his face and was bleeding from the mouth. Police said the father -- who was not identified -- told investigators he walked in as Frolander was abusing the boy. Police did not release the boy's age, but Frolander is charge...More >>
    Police say a Daytona Beach father beat an 18-year-old man unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his son. Authorities say the father called 911 early Friday after he walked in on the alleged abuse.Frolander motionless on the living room floor. He had several knots on his face and was bleeding from the mouth. Police said the father -- who was not identified -- told investigators he walked in as Frolander was abusing the boy. Police did not release the boy's age, but Frolander is charge...More >>
  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Arizona struggles with few established teachers

    Arizona struggles with few established teachers

    Education officials in Arizona are grappling with what they say is a shortage of established teachers in public schools across the state.More >>
    Education officials in Arizona are grappling with what they say is a shortage of established teachers in public schools across the state.More >>
  • Yuma citrus grower fights off tree killing disease

    Yuma citrus grower fights off tree killing disease

    A local citrus grower is part of the state wide intensive effort to keep a tree killing disease out of Arizona.More >>
  • Fontana Gruppo: Worldwide Leading Player in Fastener Solutions Acquires Acument Global Technologies

    Fontana Gruppo: Worldwide Leading Player in Fastener Solutions Acquires Acument Global Technologies

    The Fontana Gruppo, an Italian industrial company, today becomes the worldwide leader in providing world-class fastener solutions in the automotive, industrial and related industries as a result of the acquisition, on June...More >>
    The Fontana Gruppo, an Italian industrial company, today becomes the worldwide leader in providing world-class fastener solutions in the automotive, industrial and related industries as a result of the acquisition, on June...More >>
  • Out with the old...

    Out with the old...

    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
  • Visual Guide to ANTENNAS

    Visual Guide to ANTENNAS

    Visual Guide to AntennasMore >>