The Pentagon confirmed Monday night that another 15 detainees have been released from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba, making this Obamas largest prisoner transfer yet. All 15 detainees, who were part of a group that were cleared to be released this summer, were sent to the United Arab Emirates to be held in one of their detention centers. The total detainees transferred from Gitmo in 2016 is 46, leaving a total of 61 remaining at the facility.
The 15 prisoners were named as Abd al-Muhsin Abd al-Rab Salih al-Busi, Abd al-Rahman Sulayman, Mohammed Nasir Yahi Khussrof Kazaz, Abdul Muhammad Ahmad Nassar al-Muhajari, Muhammad Ahmad Said al-Adahi, Abdel Qadir al-Mudafari, Mahmud Abd Al Aziz al-Mujahid, Saeed Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah Sarem Jarabh, Mohammed Kamin, Zahar Omar Hamis bin Hamdoun, Hamid al-Razak (Haji Hamidullah), Majid Mahmud Abdu Ahmed, Ayub Murshid Ali Salih, Obaidullah, and Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah.
Of the 15 detainees, six were cleared unanimously while the other 9 were cleared after being reviewed by the Periodic Review Board. Twelve were originally from Yemen, while the remaining 3 were from Afghanistan. According to the assessments released by the Department of Defense, many of the released detainees served as bodyguards or security personnel for Osama Bin Laden. Most specify that they have been trained for jihadi combat and pose a great danger to U.S. National Security if ever released from prison.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican Congressman from California, has been an open critic of Obamas actions at Guantanamo Bay and released a statement about the latest detainee transfer this week.
“In its race to close Gitmo, the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that put American lives at risk,” Rep Royce said. “Once again, hardened terrorists are being released to foreign countries where they will be a threat. Too many have already died at the hands of former detainees. I fear we will be dealing with the consequences of this recklessness for years to come.”
Republican Rep. Scott Perry from Pennsylvania has also come out against the administrations latest actions, calling them “campaign-driven”.
However other Congressmen, such as Rep. Don Beyer, Democrat from Virginia, have congratulated Obama and his administration on their efforts to release these dangerous men from Gitmo.
The transfers are a result of Obamas plan to completely close Gitmo by the time he leaves office, a promise he made while on the Presidential campaign trail in 2008. When Obama first took office in 2009, 242 dangerous detainees were still imprisoned at the detention center in Cuba, down from its original number around 700. Overtime, the Pentagon has been transferring lower-risk detainees to facilities in other countries, ultimately leaving a smaller number of very high risk prisoners at Guantanamo.
Obama, who said earlier this year that keeping the facilities at Gitmo open was “contrary to our values”, has been moving the prisoners to other countries as a way to circumvent Congress who banned detainees from being relocated to the United States.