- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2012

President Obama’s top military adviser expressed concern Tuesday over the possibility of releasing five Taliban detainees from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“I’m concerned about our ability to maintain vigilance and control of those individuals,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

U.S. officials have talked with Taliban representatives about releasing Taliban detainees at Guantanamo to authorities in Qatar, where the Taliban will open a political office.

Before the prisoners could be released, U.S. law requires the defense secretary to personally certify that the detainees will never pose a future threat to the U.S. or engage in any future act of terrorism.

In addition, the detainees could only to be transferred to a country without a confirmed case of recidivism.

The defense secretary could waive the law’s provisions but would have to notify Congresss - an unlikely event in an election year.

Also testifying before the Senate committee Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stressed that while U.S. officials have held discussions with the Taliban, “absolutely no decisions have been made with regards to reconciliation.”

Mr. Panetta added that the U.S. conditions for reconciliation have been made very clear: Ex-fighters in Afghanistan must lay down their weapons, renounce the Taliban and abide by the Afghan constitution.

“As far as I know, none of those conditions have been met,” Mr. Panetta said. “Obviously, that will be a part of those discussions.”

Gen. Dempsey said he supports the reconciliation effort, despite his concerns.

• Kristina Wong can be reached at kwong@washingtontimes.com.

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