Former Obama administration counterterrorism chief Michael Leiter said the release of five Taliban leaders will help "to strengthen" the Islamic terror organization.
They were freed from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over the weekend in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive for five years by the Taliban.
On MSNBC Monday, Leiter said, "I do think that these five, who were really on the far end of the spectrum of bad guys in Guantanamo, this is really problematic. For the long term, this is going to strengthen the Taliban. Our hand is obviously weakening there.
"And I think them going back … is not going to turn the tide in Afghanistan, I think the tide is probably already turned. But it is strengthening them, and it is a big win for them."
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The five freed detainees, who include the Taliban's deputy defense minister, interior minister, deputy minister of intelligence, and a former chief of security, were handed over to the Qatar government for a year before they will be released.
But Leiter, who served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center for Obama and President George W. Bush before him, said, "They will be able to communicate with forces back in Afghanistan and Pakistan … and they will be back working with the Taliban."
Leiter also said that although he did not want to "impugn the integrity" of Bergdahl, questions remain about his disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan in 2009 and resulting capture by the Taliban.
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