According to David Rothkopf, publisher of Foreign Policy magazine, “The Obama administration came in with some stated goals with regard to dismantling Guantánamo that they have not been able to follow through on thus far, and we are six years in, so I think they’re feeling the pressure.”
Pundits have concluded that this pressure, applied by both the Obama Administration and by human rights groups, was a factor that contributed greatly to the recent pending resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Hagel’s tenure only lasted from February 2013 until his announcement four days ago.
“You should know I did not make this decision lightly. After much discussion, the President and I agreed that now was the right time for new leadership here at the Pentagon.” Hagel was quoted as saying by NBC News. According to reports, Hagel clashed with Obama on the Secretary’s legal obligation to certify that the detainees that were being released would not pose a threat to the United States in the future.
From his earliest days in the Oval Office, President Obama had vowed to close the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but he has never been able to fully deliver on that promise. Recently, efforts to transfer or release detainees have increased. The number of current inmates has dwindled to 142, with the majority of them scheduled for some type of transfer.
A swap was made in May of five Taliban prisoners for U.S. Army Sergeant Bow Bergdahl, seven additional detainees were transferred to other nations earlier this month, and more moves are scheduled.
“More transfers are in the pipeline, including another six Is who can’t go home to Middle East trouble spots and are approved to go to Uruguay, perhaps in December.” reported NBC’s Carol Rosenberg.
One of the detainees who was recently released was Mohammed Murdi Issa al Zahrani, 45, who is being sent back to his homeland in Saudi Arabia to take part in a program designed to rehabilitate former militants. Zahrani had been held at Guantánamo Bay for the past 12 years without ever being formally charged with a crime.
According to records, Zahrani was trained in military tactics by Al Qaeda in the 1990s. Now, he is described by his lawyers as a “middle-aged, ailing man who desperately wants to return to Saudi Arabia… to see his mother before she passes away.”
Secretary Hagel’s resignation will become effective as soon as his replacement is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.