In an effort to continue to reduce the number of Guantanamo Bay detainees still being held, four more individuals have repatriated to Afghanistan.
CNN reported the Defense Department identified the men as Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir. According to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Colonel Myles Caggins, the U.S. Air Force C-17 transported the group to Afghanistan around 6 a.m. Saturday.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul expressed appreciation to the Afghan government, which since September has been led by President Ashraf Ghani. “We have full confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to mitigate any threats these individuals may pose and to ensure that they are given humane treatment,” the embassy said.
The departures of these four Afghan men leaves 132 people still detained at Guantanamo. However, this number is still a significant reduction in numbers. The facility has held up to 800 detainees without charges, especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Since Guantanamo Bay detainees weren’t held on U.S. soil, then-President George W. Bush claimed they were “enemy combatants” and could be denied some legal protections. The controversial decision, in addition to allegations of torture and mistreatment, spurred President Barack Obama to sign an order to close the detention facility within a year.
That didn’t happen but the administration is still working towards its goal. It continues to deal with opposition from lawmakers who fear there is a risk involved in freeing the man who had fought to kill Americans.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said this and other releases by Obama’s administration are dangerous. He stated that many nations that receive former detainees aren’t up to the task of preventing them from rejoining their fight.
“We knew that was going to happen,” Rogers. “That’s why those of us who were trying to do the review of this were so concerned, because they were so interested in getting them out, that they forgot to do the due diligence. I think that would allow them to at least protect those that were going to go back into the fight, from getting back into the fight.”
Although coming from several different countries, many Guantanamo detainees were captured during the U.S.-led military fight against al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan. It has been rare for any of the detainees to be sent back there, especially in light of diplomatic discord and concerns about the country’s security situation.