President Barack Obama’s transfer of 10 additional detainees from Guantanamo Bay Monday leaves nine more on the approved list he’d like to release before President-elect Donald Trump takes office Friday.
Obama’s transfers came despite heated criticism from Trump of the transfer policy on Jan 3. Trump tweeted that he did not approve of any more transfers from the prison, saying the U.S. would not be able to guarantee the detainees do not return to the battlefield.
Obama pledged to close the prison within his first year of office, and was repeatedly stymied by congressional and Republican opposition. Several former detainees have returned to terrorist activity, but Obama says the prison itself is an enduring symbol of shame to the reputation of the U.S.
If Obama is able to transfer all nine of the remaining approved prisoners for transfer, it would bring the prison population down to 36. In the last large batch of prisoners released by Obama, all 15 were deemed “High” risk in Department of Defense (DOD) reviews. Each detainee’s DOD review, according to The New York Times Guantanamo Docket, classified him as “High Risk” and noted “he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests, and its allies.” Several of the detainees were also classified as “HIGH intelligence value.”
The U.S. released Taliban commander Abdul Qayyum Zakir from Guantanamo Bay to the government of Afghanistan in 2007. Zakir was subsequently released from Afghan prison for no apparent reason and returned to the Afghan battlefield as a senior commander. Zakir is reportedly heading military operations in Helmand province, where hundreds of U.S. Marines died between 2001-2014.
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