As 2014 came to a close, President Obama was reminded of his longstanding goal of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Asked if 2015 would finally be the year in which he reaches his goal, the president hedged a bit, but he committed to doing “everything I can to close it.”
At a minimum, the steady progress has been hard to miss. The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reported over the weekend on the latest round of transfers.
U.S. troops delivered six long-held Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo for resettlement in the Arabian Sea nation Oman on Friday, early Saturday, resuming transfers that had been stalled for months.The mission reduced the detainee population at the prison camps to 116 captives, 51 cleared for transfers with security assurances from the nation taking them in.
As expected, Republicans are once again outraged. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) complained Saturday, “At a time when Islamist extremists are surging worldwide, President Obama’s policy of releasing hardened terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay facility is replenishing their ranks. This administration must reassess its reckless detainee policies and stop freeing terrorists.”
What McCaul did not say – and may not know – is that each of the six detainees transferred Friday were clear for release at least five years ago. What’s more, as Carol Rosenberg’s report added, none of the six has ever been charged with a crime.
As for the broader pattern, the Obama administration has had some success in quickening the pace. Following up on our previous coverage, from January to October of last year, just six detainees were transferred from the prison. There’s been a flurry of activity since, and with these new transfers, Guantanamo’s population will drop to 116 detainees, down from its peak of 680 prisoners in 2003.
The political dynamic in Washington, meanwhile, remains quite contentious, with congressional Republicans pushing new measures to prevent transfers from Guantanamo – GOP lawmakers realize that U.S. military leaders support closing the prison, but Republicans simply don’t care.
For its part, the White House continues to explore a variety of options, lawmakers’ efforts to tie the administration’s hands notwithstanding.