Saudi Arabia has arrested and deported more than 4,000 illegal aliens since mid-November. Yemenis make up 75 per cent of the 4,452 foreigners apprehended in the sweep, according Gulf News. Given these numbers, it is easy to forget the nine terrorists previously held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba recently released by the Kingdom. The Yemeni Islamic extremists were released from the GITMO detention camp by President Barack Obama in the waning days of his presidency.
The Obama administration released the jihadists to Saudi Arabia for “rehabilitation” at the Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care. The center is touted as a reentry program for “former” jihadists. Time magazine described the center as the “Betty Ford Center for terrorists,” providing religious re-education, vacations, conjugal visits and art therapy. Maybe coincidentally the Center’s namesake, Mohammed bin Nayef, was among the Saudi royals detained by Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman in his anti-terrorism and corruption sweep.
Bin Salman is considered a friend to the United States. The prince recently chaired the first summit of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (ISMCTC) and made clear he would not allow jihadism to “tarnish our beautiful religion.” The sentiment is laudable. The execution is not. To date, all council members are Sunni dominated countries. The alliance does not include any countries with Shia majorities, such as Iran, Iraq or Syria. Bin Salman condemned extremism at ISMCTC in 2017, two years after creating the forum. Until last month the council had never held a summit, much less countered Islamist extremism.
So, what of the nine hardened jihadists who “graduated” from the Center for Counseling and Care? Where are they now? Maybe writing their memoirs? Conceivably teaching art classes at the local mosque? Regrettably both unlikely scenarios. Given available intelligence, the “rehabilitated graduates” have likely returned to jihad. In fact, we know of at least 462 “graduates” who have returned to terror, be it the battlefield, recruiting or fundraising for Islamist causes.
Whether or not the Yemeni jihadists received a certificate of merit for art class at the Center for Counseling and Care is irrelevant. In Washington, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a report last year tracking Guantanamo Bay detainees re-engaging in terrorism. That report, compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies says a total of 121 former Islamist detainees have re-engaged directly in terrorism.
Case in point: The “Batch Ten” militants, who underwent rehabilitation programs in Saudi Arabia have all returned to jihad. Among them terrorists like Mohamed Atiq Awayd Al Harbi, who after being repatriated to Saudi in 2007, was placed at the Center for Counseling and Care. Once “rehabilitated,” Al Harbi was released. He quickly became the second in command of al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP).
Othman Ahmed Othman Al Omairah, was held at GITMO and released to his Saudi homeland in 2006. He was free after “rehabilitation.” Al Omairah’s (known as Othman Al-Ghamdi) smiling face now beams back at counter terrorism operatives from Saudi’s “most wanted” terrorist poster. He is a battlefield commander with AQAP.
Let’s add Othman Al-Ghamdi to the catalog of detainees back in the extremist fold. Following release from Saudi’s heralded wellness clinic, the “rehabilitated” Al-Ghmadi returned immediately to Jihad. He is thought responsible for a number of terror attacks. The second careers and sequels are not confined to the battlefield or the Kingdom. Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi was captured in 2002 and held at GITMO for ten years before heading to Sudan for reintegration. He “graduated” from Sudan’s reentry program shortly thereafter. By 2015 al Qosi had a starring role in recruiting videos for AQAP and other Islamic terror groups.
Jihadi rehab centers are not effective. The programs do not work. In its attempt to honor a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay, the Obama Administration returned many hardened Islamic terrorists to the battlefield. Assuming the latest batch of GITMO alum remain true to form, they have likely already scurried across the border and rejoin AQAP in Yemen. We need less terrorists, not more.
Gregory Keeley is a retired Lt Commander with service in both the United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. He is a veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pacific. LCDR Keeley also served as Senior Advisor to the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Service Committee (Rep Jim Saxton) and the Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee (Rep Ed Royce) in the U.S. Congress.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.