(NBC News) Ahead of the expiration of a one-year travel ban for the five senior Taliban leaders exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release, U.S. government officials are working with Qatar to keep the members of the terrorist group under some form of government control, monitoring or travel ban.
Unless an agreement is struck with Qatar, where that government has been monitoring the Taliban leaders’ activities and preventing them from traveling out of the country, the five high ranking members of the terrorist organization could leave the tiny nation on the Arabian Peninsula at the beginning of next month.
According to the officials, under one option the five detainees would remain in Qatar where their travel ban would be extended and they remain under government monitoring. Another option is having them returned to Afghanistan where the Afghan government would have the option to imprison them, or enforce their own travel ban and monitoring or release them.
A third option, which US officials consider the most unlikely, would be the five members of the terrorist group would be entirely set free to travel when their one-year travel ban and monitoring expires June 1st.
U.S. officials appear confident that will not happen.
“They will not be traveling to New York anytime soon,” one military official tells NBC News.
Still, members of Congress privy to the details of a secret memorandum of understanding the U.S. reached with Qatar that put the five under a 12-month watch following their release are worried.
“In Congress, we spent a lot of time debating whether the Qataris were going to adequately keep an eye on them in the course of the 12 months,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee told the Associated Press. “My point all along was that I’m more worried about month No. 13 than the first 12.”
The five Taliban leaders had previously been held in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until they were released in exchange for Bergdahl. While the five detainees were sent to Qatar, Bergdahl was released to the U.S. military after being held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years after he walked away from his Army post in Afghanistan.
Credit: NBC News and The Associated Press contributed.