Five more Guantanamo Bay detainees, deemed “no longer dangerous” by the Obama administration, have been freed and sent to Kazakhstan. The five men have ties to al Qaeda.
Two of the men, Adel Al-Hakeemy and Abdallah Bin Ali al Lufti, are from Tunisia. The three others, Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna, and Sabri Mohammad al Qurashi.are from Yemen.
The United States transferred six detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Uruguay in early December. It was the largest single group of inmates to leave the wartime prison in Cuba since 2009.
It’s widely believed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel‘s abrupt resignation in November, under pressure, stemmed from the Obama administration’s push last year to reinvigorate the process of closing Guantanamo and Hagel’s refusal to sign off on an ever-increasing amount of releases. Obama’s irritation with Hagel grew so intense that National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent Hagel a memo directing him to report directly to her every two weeks on progress toward transferring or releasing Guantanamo prisoners.
Hagel had no problem verbalizing his stance on the releases:
“The Congress assigned the secretary of defense the responsibility of notifying them of a decision to release detainees. In that decision-making process that I have a responsibility for, my name goes on that document; that’s a big responsibility,” the defense secretary said. “What I’m doing is I’m taking my time. I owe that to the American people, I owe that to the president, to assure that any decision I make is, in my own mind, and by the standards that Congress gave me, that I, in fact, can certify and notify that this is the responsible thing to do.“
Obama’s pick to replace Hagel, former Pentagon official Ashton Carter, hasn’t taken a public stance on the prison but it’s unlikely the President would pick someone for the job who doesn’t understand his agenda to close Gitmo.
In late December State Department envoy Cliff Sloan, who negotiates detainee transfers from Gitmo, announced he was also resigning. His departure comes as officials at the State Department and the White House are increasingly frustrated with the Defense Department’s slow pace of releasing prisoners.
It’s still unclear what is in store for some detainees, including the prisoners facing trial by military commission for war crimes — a group that includes five men charged with planning and aiding the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. Congress has already prohibited transferring any prisoners to the U.S. so the fate of those prisoners remains the last stumbling block to closure of the prison.
Many Pentagon officials and American military commanders have expressed concern about releasing Guantánamo prisoners who, they say, may return to the battlefield.
Since 2009 U.S. Obama has overseen the release of 111 prisoners and the current population now stands at 127 with more than 60 of the remaining detainees already cleared for transfer.
Since it opened in 2002 Gitmo has held nearly 700 prisoners.