Obama Clears Afghan Taliban Terrorist for Guantanamo Release Despite ‘Threat’

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

The Obama administration’s Guantánamo parole board has released an al-Qaeda-linked jihadi recruiter from Mauritania and approved for release an Afghan man affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda who “still presents some level of threat.”

After the release of Mauritanian prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi to his home country on Monday, the total number of detainees at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, also known as Gitmo, dropped to 60.

On October 3, the parole board also declared al-Qaeda-affiliated detainee Mohammed Ahmed Rabbani from Pakistan too dangerous to release, making him the 25th individual deemed an indefinite detainee, or “forever prisoner,” by Obama’s panel.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has reversed previous “forever prisoner” designations and released individuals who had been deemed too dangerous for release.

On September 26, the multi-agency parole panel, officially known as the Periodic Review Board (PRB), recommended that Afghan detainee Haji Wali Muhammad be transferred “to a country with reintegration support and the capacity to implement robust security measures, including monitoring and travel restrictions,” adding, “The Board noted that the detainee does not appear to be motivated by extremist ideologies, and the detainees relatively compliant behavior and cooperative attitude toward [Gitmo] staff.”

The Miami Herald explains:

Hours after releasing a Mauritanian prisoner, the Pentagon disclosed Monday that the Guantánamo parole board has approved the release of an Afghan man — meaning 20 of the last 60 captives can leave with security assurances that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Although the Pentagon noted that Carter informed Congress of Monday’s transfer, as mandated by law, the Herald reports that “it is not known when any of the 20 cleared detainees might go; a U.S. official with knowledge of the transfer process said there are currently no 30-day notices at Congress.”

In approving for release Afghan money changer Muhammad, who may have handled funds for the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, the parole board noted that it “recognizes the detainee presents some level of threat in light of his past activities, skills, and associations,” adding:

However, the Board found that in light of the factors and conditions of transfer … the threat the detainee presents can be adequately mitigated.

The Board considered that the detainee’s business connections and associations with al-Qa’ida and the Taliban pre-date 911 and appear to have ended.

Barack Obama has vowed to shut down Gitmo, a promise he appears unlikely to keep with only a few months left as president.

Referring to the Pakistani detainee Rabbani, who was recently deemed a “forever prisoner,” the parole board reported that it “considered the detainee’s lengthy and continuous association with al-Qa’ida beginning with training in Afghanistan in 1994.” It continued, “The detainee was a financial and travel facilitator over an extended period of time for al-Qa’ida external operations chief Khaled Shaykh Muhammad and USS Cole bombing mastermind Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.”

The Miami Herald adds:

Rabbani’s brother Abdul Rahim was similarly reviewed and the board upheld his indefinite detention status in August. A 2009 federal task force recommended that the Rabbani brothers be considered for possible trial by federal or military court. But neither has ever been charged with a crime.

A bipartisan bill, which President Obama signed into law, prevents the president from transferring detainees onto U.S. soil, a move that is part of a plan to close the facility that the Pentagon submitted to Congress earlier this year.

In August, the Obama administration transferred 12 Yemenis and three Afghans, including two “forever prisoners,” from the U.S. military detention center to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), marking the largest detainee transfer under Obama’s watch.

The latest estimate by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) revealed that nearly 30 percent of Gitmo detainees who have been released are now either confirmed or suspected of having returned to terrorist activities.


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