The Pentagon has transferred two Libyan detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Senegal, Defense Department officials said on Monday, the latest step in President Obama's accelerating effort to close the prison before he leaves office. Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar were captured separately in Pakistan and had been held in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.
It's been about three months since House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) published a blog post encouraging President Obama to give up on his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. "Mr. President, it's time to move on," the Republican leader said.
Actually, it's not. Obama, like U.S. military leaders, continues to see the detention facility as expensive, unnecessary, and a propaganda tool for terrorists, so the administration continues to take steps towards its goal. The Washington Post reported yesterday on the latest evidence of incremental progress.
Updating the tally we've been keeping an eye on, the detention facility's population peaked in 2003 with 680 prisoners. As of today, the Obama administration has reduced that total to just 89 people -- the lowest number we've seen in 14 years.
For the White House, the goal is to close the prison and reduce the prison population to zero, and to that end, note that 35 of the remaining 89 detainees have already been cleared for transfer.
As we've discussed, the point of the gradual reductions, obviously, is to reduce the overall population, but it's also intended to appeal to Congress' sense of fiscal sanity: the smaller the number of detainees, the harder it is to justify the massive expense of keeping open a detention facility that houses so few people.
Congressional Republicans, however, have convinced themselves that, no matter what, Guantanamo must remain open, indefinitely, despite U.S. military leaders urging lawmakers to close it.
In February, the White House provided Congress with a 21-page plan from the Pentagon to close the Guantanamo prison permanently. To date, lawmakers have ignored the blueprint.