Rep. McKeon: Halt Gitmo transfers to Yemen

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee implored the president on Tuesday to halt all transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen.

Those transfers, which began during the previous administration, "only invites more risk to our safety," said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the panel's ranking GOP member.

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“As our nation witnessed on Christmas Day, we continue to face a dedicated enemy committed to killing our citizens and destroying our country," the congressman said. "It seeks out ungoverned spots around the globe from which to operate; places like those found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen."

“While Yemen is an ally to the United States and our efforts to strengthen and professionalize the Yemeni military should continue, it is clear that we can no longer have confidence that the Yemeni government has the capacity to assist the United States in providing the high level of security our citizens’ require and deserve," McKeon added.

Criticism of the White House's decision to transfer a number of its Gitmo detainees to Yemen has increased since the attempted bombing of Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

The suspect, who boarded the Detroit-bound plane in Amsterdam, acquired his training and explosives from an al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. That news has led some to press the White House to take a more active role in defeating terrorists there, who seem to thrive due to the state's relative instability.

But on the question of whether Gitmo detainees ought still to be transferred to the Middle Eastern state, the White House has not exactly relented. Administration officials this weekend made clear the security situation there was hardly new, suggesting the detainees could still be transferred. They did, however, stress they would re-evaluate the situation as necessary.

However, that position has hardly satisfied Republicans, who fear the detainees could rejoin the ranks of old terrorist networks and threaten U.S. interests. McKeon too stressed that point on Tuesday, urging the White House to reverse its course to protect U.S. security.

“The remaining detainee population in Guantanamo consists of the most hardened, irreconcilable combatants," he said. "Recidivism rates of terrorists previously detained at Guantanamo is on the rise; and placing our trust and security in the hands of countries such as Yemen that are already under siege by al-Qaeda only invites more risk to our safety.”