Ex-Guantanamo inmate tried to contact Taleban: US

A guard opens the gate at the entrance to Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, in this file photo taken March 5, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A guard opens the gate at the entrance to Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, in this file photo taken March 5, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A former inmate at the US-run prison in Guantanamo Bay who was transferred to Qatar in exchange for an American prisoner of war has tried to make contact with the Taleban, defence officials said Friday.

The former detainee, one of five released to Qatar from Guantanamo in a swap for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, "attempted to communicate" with fellow Taleban fighters, a defence official told AFP.

The episode is sure to aggravate the bitter political argument in Washington over last year's exchange for Bergdahl.

Lawmakers on the right have accused President Barack Obama of releasing dangerous extremists who pose a threat to Americans.

The Obama administration acknowledged the incident but said Qatar, in cooperation with the United States, was taking steps to prevent the five men from trying to rejoin the Taleban insurgency in Afghanistan.

"We remain confident, as we were when we sent them there, that the assurances we received are sufficient enough to help us mitigate any future threat that these individuals might pose," Pentagon spokesman Rear-Admiral John Kirby told reporters.

"And I would hasten to remind that it was because of the process we have in place and the strong relationship that we have with the government of Qatar, that we were able to identify this particular activity," said Kirby, referring to the former inmate's bid to contact the Taleban.

"And I can assure you that steps are being taken to mitigate any activity in the future."

Kirby suggested that it was the United States that informed Qatar about the former detainee's activity, saying the US government had raised with Qatar the detainee's "potential reengagement" with the Taleban.

"And we communicated with the government of Qatar over that activity, and again, proper steps are being put in place to further limit it," the admiral said.

But Kirby declined to disclose further details about the former detainee or what security measures were being carried out.

The White House said the five former detainees remained in Qatar and had not traveled to Afghanistan to rejoin the insurgency.

"None of these individuals has returned to the battlefield, none of them has been allowed outside of Qatar and none has engaged in physical violence," spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"In fact, each of them at this moment is still in Qatar and each of them is subject to monitoring and other mitigation measures that limit their activities," he said.

Bergdahl was captured by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 and released last May in an exchange for the five Taleban inmates at Guantanamo.

The circumstances of Bergdahl's disappearance have prompted accusations he deserted his post.

A US Army general is currently weighing whether he should face charges.