The Obama administration, while the Senate debates halting transfers out of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and keeping the prison operable indefinitely, is planning to free up to 10 detainees, possibly in June, Defense One has learned.
“You’re likely to see some progress in June,” an unnamed senior defense official told Defense One. “I just talked to the National Security Council and State [Department], so we can say maybe up to 10 — no specific timeframe, but in the near future. And then we’re actively engaged with a number of countries in additional negotiations regarding the 57 that are eligible. But sometime this summer, maybe June, up to 10.”
The Pentagon, as part of an interagency review, has cleared 57 of the detention center’s 122 prisoners for transfer to other countries.
In anticipation of the Republican takeover of Congress last year, the Obama administration sped up transfers in an effort to empty out the detention center before the new GOP majority could block attempts to close it.
There have been no transfers since January, notes Defense One.
The Washington Post in April reported that the Obama administration was racing to liberate Guantanamo prisoners in the coming months.
On Wednesday, Defense One learned that some transfers are possible this month.
Secretary of Defense Carter reportedly intends on closing Guantanamo.
“I think it’s fair to say he’s fully engaged in all things Guantanamo — transfers, dealing with the Senate and the House and the Hill, talking with the White House on a regular basis,” the defense official reportedly said.
“He has also said that he wants to take a holistic approach,” added the official. “So he wants to focus on the 57 who are cleared for transfer, but he wants to see what we’re doing with the rest of those. So he’s thinking about all 122, not just the 57.”
The Senate began debating the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday, which has become the vehicle for the fight to keep the prison open or close it.
“Both existing versions of House and Senate NDAA would extend current restrictions on transferring prisoners to the United States, and restore stricter provisions stripped out in past years,” notes Defense One. “In some cases, they would also add new obstacles, essentially blocking many of the third-party transfers. The House version would withhold 25 percent of Carter’s budget as punishment for what House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, characterized as foot-dragging on providing documents related to the detainees swapped for Bowe Bergdahl.”
Language inserted in the NDAA by Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) allows President Obama to close the detention center if he can muster Congressional support for his plan. If not, stricter restrictions would kick in.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill over restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Secretary of Defense Carter’s predecessor, Chuck Hagel, told CNN he felt pressure from Obama’s White House to release Guantanamo prisoners.