Despite strong opposition from lawmakers, President Obama on Monday inched closer to his goal of shutting down Guantanamo Bay with the single largest release of detainees from the detention facility since he took office.
Fifteen prisoners held at the U.S. facility in Cuba, including 12 Yemeni nationals and three Afghans, were released and sent to the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon announced Tuesday. The prisoners were being held without charge, some for over a decade.
“The detainees at Guantánamo Bay are hardened terrorists who will stop at nothing to attack the United States”
The administration has been overt in its intentions to close down the detention center. Ambassador Lee Wolosky, Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure at the U.S. State Department, touted the benefits of accomplishing that feat.
“The continued operation of the detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists,” Wolosky said told The Chicago Tribune.
Members of Congress have repeatedly tried to block the closure of the base and the release of the potentially dangerous detainees. Many regard the remaining detainees as likely the most dangerous, since the administration has long since freed or transferred detainees viewed as low-threat.
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“The detainees at Guantánamo Bay are hardened terrorists who will stop at nothing to attack the United States,” Sen. Tom Cotton said in a statement. “Their recidivism isn’t related to their time at Guantánamo Bay, it’s related to their fundamental opposition to our fundamental belief in freedom.”
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According to recent report in the Washington Post, citing a confidential source, at least 12 former detainees have been linked to attacks on Americans abroad following their release. The official refused to specify the number of Americans killed, but said it ranged between six and 15.
U.S. military documents released by the Pentagon earlier this year showed 116 detainees who had previously been released from Guantanamo were “confirmed of re-engaging” in terrorist activity. That’s roughly 18 percent of the 647 detainees that had been released from the prison by January, when the report was released.
There are 61 detainees still being held at the detention center, according to the Pentagon.