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Qatar Extends Travel Ban for Taliban Leaders Released from Guantanamo

FILE - A general view of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar. Afghan and Taliban officials will hold two days of "reconciliation" talks in Qatar, the Gulf nation's state news agency reported, May 2, 2015.

Qatar has agreed to temporarily extend a travel ban for the five senior Taliban leaders who have lived there since being released last year from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in exchange for captured U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

U.S. officials said the ban will stay in place while discussions between the United States, Qatar and Afghanistan continue for a long-term solution. The Taliban members still will not be able to travel and will be subject to monitoring.

Bergdahl was captured and held by the Taliban for five years, after walking away from his Army post in Afghanistan. He was charged with desertion in March and could face a life sentence.

The five Taliban members freed from U.S. custody are Mullah Khairullah Khairkhaw, Mullah Noorullah Noori, Mullah Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Fazil Mazloom and Mohammad Nabi Omari.

They were senior officials in the Taliban group that controlled Afghanistan and played host to the al-Qaida terror network from 1996 until the final weeks of 2001. U.S. and other allied forces ousted and dispersed the Taliban following al-Qaida's attack on the United States on September 11, 2001.

A member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, Ismail Qasimyar, has insisted that the five Taliban either should remain in Qatar indefinitely or be handed over to the Afghan government.

"Any move that supports war against the people of Afghanistan, we consider a hostile move," the Tolo television station quoted Qasimyar as saying.

The State Department insists that U.S. officials work to mitigate the risk of former Guantanamo detainees returning to the fight, threatening Americans or jeopardizing U.S. national security. U.S. officials have noted in the past that the five Taliban leaders are middle-aged or older, were former officials in the Taliban government, and probably would not return to the battlefield, although they could continue to be active members of the Taliban.

Members of Congress have repeatedly expressed concern about what will happen after the travel ban expires, and they have criticized the administration for releasing the five.