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GOP rips 'reckless' Gitmo transfers

The Hill

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Washington, August 16, 2016 | comments

Republicans are slamming President Obama for sending 15 detainees out of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, the administration's largest batch of transfers to date.

“In its race to close Gitmo, the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that put American lives at risk,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a written statement.

Late Monday, the Pentagon announced that 15 detainees from Guantánamo had been sent to the United Arab Emirates. There are now 61 detainees left at the Cuban facility.

Bulk releases out of the detention facility were common under former President George W. Bush, but that changed under the Obama administration. The pace has slowed because of a new clearance process and because of restrictions imposed by Congress. 

But the pace has picked up this year as Obama seeks to fulfill a promise from his first campaign to close the prison.

The president is unlikely to achieve his goal, as Congress dismissed his proposal for moving Gitmo detainees to the U.S. But the administration has been working to empty the facility as much as possible by transferring prisoners cleared for release to foreign countries.

With Monday’s transfer, 20 detainees who have been cleared remain at the facility. More review boards have been scheduled to determine whether to clear more detainees, as well.

Human rights groups hailed Monday’s transfer as evidence of Obama’s commitment to closing the facility.

“This is a powerful sign that President Obama is serious about closing Guantánamo before he leaves office,” Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program Director Naureen Shah said in a written statement.

“It is vital he keep the momentum. If President Obama fails to close Guantánamo, the next administration could fill it with new detainees, and it could become permanent. It would be an extremely dangerous legacy of allowing people to be detained without charge, in an endless global war, practically until they die.”

Republicans called the transfers evidence of Obama’s “recklessness.” 

“Once again, hardened terrorists are being released to foreign countries where they will be a threat,” Royce said. “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.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R- N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the continue release of detainees is “unconscionable.”

“Several terrorists released by the Obama administration have returned to the battlefield and re-engaged in attacks against coalition forces and our allies,” Burr said. “The administration continues to put our national security at risk in misguided attempts to fulfill campaign pledges and to cement the President’s legacy.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) called the transfers troubling and highlighted a 30 percent recidivism rate that represents detainees released by Bush and Obama that are confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorism.

"President Obama’s latest release of 15 Guantanamo Bay prisoners is especially troubling at a time of heightened instability in the Middle East coupled with the rise of ISIS," Gardner said in a written statement, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “It’s clear President Obama is rushing to fulfill an old campaign promise during the final months of his presidency given that this transfer of detainees is the largest since he was sworn into office."

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said a Pentagon report on 107 detainees shows those transferred Monday could jeopardize national security.

"The terrorists this administration just released include individuals who fought on the front lines against U.S. and other coalition forces, targeted U.S. personnel with explosives, served as bin Laden bodyguards and acted as al Qaeda IED experts," Ayotte said.

Here are the profiles of the 15 detainees, according to the Pentagon report:

- Abd al-Muhsin Abd al-Rab Salih al-Busi allegedly received training by al Qaeda and fought on the front lines in Afghanistan for five months.

- Abd al-Rahman Sulayman allegedly received weapons training from al Qaeda, fought on the front lines and spent time at an al Qaeda guest house.

- Mohammed Nasir Yahi Khussrof Kazaz allegedly received basic al Qaeda training and was in charge of a group of fighters in Tora Bora.

- Abdul Muhammad Ahmad Nassar al-Muhajari allegedly received training and associated with a terrorist who swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

- Muhammad Ahmad Said al-Adahi allegedly met with bin Laden several times, was associated with his bodyguards and attended al Qaeda training camp.

- Abdel Qadir al-Mudafari alleged trained at an al Qaeda training camp, became an instructor there and was briefly a bin Laden bodyguard.

- Mahmud Abd Al Aziz al-Mujahid allegedly was once a bodyguard for bin Laden.

- Saeed Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah Sarem Jarabh allegedly stayed at al Qaeda guesthouses, received at least basic weapons training and possibly fought on the front lines.

- Mohammed Kamin allegedly received specialized training in explosives and led a cell that procured, delivered and stored weapons for al Qaeda and the Taliban and cased targets along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

- Zahar Omar Hamis bin Hamdoun allegedly was a weapons and explosives trainer who possibly commanded foreign fighters. Phone numbers found in his documents have been linked to senior associates of al Qaeda, according to the report.

- Hamid al-Razak allegedly “probably” ordered and conducted attacks against Afghan and coalition personnel during the Afghanistan War.

- Majid Mahmud Abdu Ahmed allegedly fought on the front lines and became a bodyguard for bin Laden in August 2001.

-  Ayub Murshid Ali Salih allegedly was low-ranking militant and “probably did not play a major role in terrorist operations.”

- Obaidullah was allegedly part of an al Qaeda-associated cell that targeted coalition forces with improvised explosive devices. He admitted to working to acquire and plant anti-tank mines to target U.S. and coalition forces, according to the report.

- Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah allegedly was a low-level militant who was briefly on the frontlines in Afghanistan before moving through a series of safe houses and being captured in raids of safe houses in Karachi, Pakistan. “Although his role in al-Qa’ida operational plotting is unverified, his last will and testament found in the Karachi raids included a martyrdom statement,” the report says.

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Tags: Terrorism

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