U.S. intelligence officials predicted that two of the detainees freed from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity would return to senior positions in the militant group, according to a published report.
The Wall Street Journal reports that analysis was contained in a classified assessment prepared by spy agencies during deliberations about whether to agree to the prisoner exchange. The analysis also said that two others were likely to assume active roles within the Taliban.
The intelligence assessment was reportedly described to select lawmakers during classified briefings about the prisoner swap given by the administration last week. The existence of the assessment is being revealed as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel prepares to testify before the House Armed Services Committee about the prisoner exchange Wednesday.
The five detainees are Mohammed Fazl, a former Taliban army chief of staff; Noorullah Noori, a former commander in northern Afghanistan; Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former interior minister; Mohammed Nabi Omari, another Taliban official; and Abdul Haq Wasiq, the deputy intelligence chief.
Of those five, a senior U.S. official tells the Journal that Fazl and Khairkhwa are likely to resume senior leadership roles, while Noori and Omari are expected to resume active roles. Wasiq is considered unlikely to resume an active role with the Taliban. According to documents obtained and released by the website Wikileaks, Wasiq had arranged to meet with U.S. forces to provide information about Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar that could be used in attempting to capture him prior to Wasiq's detention in 2001.
The Journal reports that one U.S. document says Wasiq was "resentful" that he was imprisoned while cooperating with the U.S.
The Obama administration has defended the prisoner exchange on the grounds that Qatar, which took in the detainees, would allow the U.S. to monitor and track them. The Journal reports that Qatar has also agreed to offer a "re-education program" designed to draw the five away from militancy.
If that doesn't work, U.S. officials say, the administration would not hesitate to target the men should they attempt to return to the battlefield.
As Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby put it, "They re-enter the fight at their own peril."