Gitmo: Holding post-9/11 detainees since January 11, 2002
(When the first batch of 20 arrived)
WASHINGTON (NY TIMES) – May 6, 2018: The Pentagon has transferred one Guantánamo Bay detainee (prisoner) to the custody of Saudi Arabia. The handoff is the first detainee who has left Gitmo under Trump, the candidate who once vowed to fill it back up but has now instead overseen a reduction in its population.
Reminder of that aspect and showing the difference between Obama and Trump, in part here from NPR (November 14, 2016):
Ben Wittes, Editor of the national security blog Lawfare wrote: “You have to ask the question, with whom, because the U.S. is not fighting ground wars and taking prisoners like it once did.”
Wittes also wondered how Trump expects to load up Guantanamo with bad dudes, saying: “Trump's stated military strategy and ambition are so hard to figure out that it's not at all clear to me what the captive population that would be subject to being moved to Guantanamo is, who they would be or where they would come from.”
Noteworthy: If it were up to Trump, suspects might actually come from the United States just like when he was asked that summer by the Miami Herald if Americans accused of terrorism should be tried by military commissions in Guantanamo, Trump quickly endorsed such a policy.
Proponents for closing Guantanamo are demanding that Obama fulfill his promise before Trump takes over on January 20, 2017.
At least one online video counted down the days Obama had left in office that featured a new anthem with the refrain: “Close Guantanamo, Close Guantanamo.” It didn’t work, however.
As far as the detainee released, Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi, it is highly unlikely he would even be set free soon in Saudi Arabia.
American officials intend for him to serve the roughly nine years remaining in a 13-year sentence he received after pleading guilty before a military commission to terrorism-related offenses involving a 2002 al-Qaeda attack on a French-flagged oil tanker off Yemen’s coast.
Al-Darbi said in a prepared statement from his volunteer lawyer, Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York: “My words will not do justice to what I lived through in these years and to the men I leave behind in prison. No one should remain at Guantánamo without a trial. There is no justice in that.”
Al-Darbi’s departure leaves 40 detainees still at Guantánamo, down from 41 when Obama left office. The transfer comes as the Trump administration has been struggling to fulfill Trump’s strong desire (and now his official order) to back up his chest-thumping campaign rhetoric about filling Guantánamo with “bad dudes” and keeping it open – that even as counterterrorism and security professionals, including Sec. Def. Jim Mattis have all repeatedly argued that other approaches made more practical sense.
We shall see what Trump’s next promise will be, or not.
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