- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2015

One of the five Taliban members swapped by the Obama administration in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has reportedly tried to return to terrorist activity, trying to reconnect with Islamic extremists near Qatar, according to CNN.

The five men had been kept in a high security detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until they were set free in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl in spring 2014.

Taliban members Khairullah Khairkhwa, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammad Fazl, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Mohammed Nabi were all freed by the Obama administration in May to secure Sgt. Bergdahl’s release.

Ever since the exchange was made, the 28-year-old Sgt. Bergdahl has been the poster child in a national security debate over whether the five-for-one trade qualified as negotiating with terrorists. Obama administration officials maintain that they executed a successful rescue operation while lawmakers have remained skeptical, based in part on suspicions among soldiers that Sgt. Bergdahl was actually a deserter.

Now, those tensions are resurfacing amid accusations that a U.S. intelligence program designed to intercept and monitor the five Taliban’s communications has turned up evidence that one has a penchant for terrorist activity, CNN reported.

Military officials declined to specify which of the former detainees has allegedly been making overtures toward other militants near Qatar.

SEE ALSO: Army denies final decision on Bowe Bergdahl has been made

“We do not comment on specific cases,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said in a statement Thursday.

Col. Warren told The Washington Times that the U.S. military leverages its intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic connections to mitigate any attempt by a former detainee to return to terrorist activity. Follow-on action is taken when necessary, he said.

“We work with the host nation – whatever nation they’re in. We work with that host nation to take legal actions, to take law enforcement actions,” he said.

Lawmakers on Thursday bristled at reports that one of the high-level militants administration officials exchanged for Sgt. Bergdahl might soon become a threat to Americans abroad.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican and a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, said she was disturbed by the news, which only served to highlight “the danger of the administration’s irresponsible decision” to free the terrorists.

She used the report to highlight her legislative battle to keep detainees who pose a serious threat to the United States and its interests locked up at the detention camp.

“With nearly 30 percent of former Guantanamo detainees suspected or confirmed of reengaging in terrorism, the administration’s continued policy of releasing dangerous terrorists endangers Americans and our allies,” she said. “Consistent with the legislation I have introduced, I renew my call for suspending transfers of detainees assessed to be high or medium risk. I look forward to the Senate Armed Services Committee considering this legislation as soon as possible.”

CNN reported that Congress had been notified of the former detainee’s activity.

The news that one of the men has rekindled an interest in terrorist activity comes just as Sgt. Bergdahl is facing potential charges of desertion.

The Army has denied that a final decision has been made regarding a six-month investigation into Sgt. Bergdahl’s June 2009 disappearance from his platoon’s outpost in Afghanistan after multiple news outlets reported earlier this week that he would be charged with desertion.

“To be clear, there have been no actions or decisions on the Sgt. Bergdahl investigation,” Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Ronald Lewis said. “The investigation is still with the Commanding General of U.S. Army Forces Command, who will determine appropriate action — which ranges from no further action to convening a court martial. We understand the public interest in this case and once a decision has been made, the Army will be open and transparent in this matter.”

Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of Forces Command, will make the final decision regarding the outcome of the investigation into Sgt. Berghdal’s disappearance.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

• Maggie Ybarra can be reached at mybarra@washingtontimes.com.

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