US Republican lawmakers are voicing growing alarm over a possible deal with the Taliban that would see five militants transferred from Guantanamo as part of peace talks on ending Afghanistan’s insurgency.
The criticism comes after US President Barack Obama’s administration acknowledged negotiations for a potential transfer of five inmates from the prison at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar in exchange for the Taliban renouncing violence.
Mike Rogers, chairman of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called it a “bad idea” that would jeopardize battlefield gains by US-led troops in the war in Afghanistan.
“If this happens, we have crossed a red line that we will never be able to get back. It is a serious doctrinal change for the United States government,” Rogers told a hearing with intelligence chiefs.
The possible prisoner transfer has been portrayed by officials as a “confidence-building” measure to clear the way for peace talks to end the 10-year war.
The Obama administration insists no final decision has been made and that talks with the Taliban are at a preliminary stage, but Rogers and other Republicans are demanding the White House abandon the approach.
Rogers accused the administration of ignoring intelligence reports that made clear the Taliban and its allies are committed to seizing back power, as well as a 2009 assessment that deemed the five Taliban prisoners too dangerous for release.
US officials have said the transfer, if carried out, would be in exchange for the Taliban renouncing ties with international terrorism, effectively a break with al-Qaeda.