The Obama administration discharged 10 Yemeni detainees Thursday from Guantanamo Bay, showing just how intent the White House is on emptying the facility before the end of Obama’s term.
State-run media in Oman, where the detainees are headed, first reported the shadowy transfer, adding that it is a “temporary stay,” according to Fox News. The Department of Defense subsequently issued a press release mentioning the names of the 10 detainees, who were previously left anonymous. Some are high-risk, while others are only medium-risk, based on detainee assessments listed by The New York Times.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the Obama administration is absolutely committed to shutting down the facility and will soon present Congress with a closure plan. In the absence of congressional approval, the White House will still try to find a way to get rid of the facility and fulfill Obama’s initial campaign promise. For McDonough, closure is essential, as Gitmo is a national security risk and also costs an excessive amount.
Members of Congress raised alarm at the transfer, given how close Oman is to war-torn Yemen, a key base of operations for al-Qaida. The reason the administration picked Oman is because Congress has banned transfers to Yemen, as it is incredibly volatile and would likely draw detainees back into the fight quickly. In fact, three Gitmo detainees have ended up in Yemen fighting for al-Qaida following their transfers.
“While current law bans the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, the administration may attempt to circumvent that prohibition by sending terrorist detainees to the neighboring country of Oman,” GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte said in a statement. “Yemen is engulfed in civil war, serves as the headquarters for al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate, and one or more of the Charlie Hebdo attackers is believed to have travelled from Oman to Yemen to receive training from AQAP. This potential transfer is all the more troubling in light of the fact that Ibrahim al Qosi, who was released from Gitmo by the Obama administration in 2012, is now reportedly a leader and spokesman for AQAP.”
“The administration has not been forthright with the American people about the terrorist affiliations and activities of these detainees or provided sufficient assurances that they will not return to the battlefield,” Ayotte added.
The latest transfer brings the total population of Guantanamo Bay below 100 to 93, though of that new total, 59 are not eligible for transfer. It is unclear what the administration will do with ineligible detainees, though the Pentagon has recently scouted out potential locations in the U.S. to store detainees, prompting even more outrage from Congress.
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