Four Gitmo prisoners released to Afghanistan

The Pentagon on Saturday announced that it had transferred four detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison facility back to their home country of Afghanistan.

The Defense Department said all four men had been “unanimously approved for transfer” by the president’s interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force, which examines the possible security ramifications of releasing prisoners from the facility.

The transfers will bring the prison’s population down to 131, with 63 of the remaining detainees already cleared for removal.

The president has made closing the controversial facility a top priority in the final years of his presidency, and summoned senior administration officials to the White House last month to complain about the pace of efforts to close the detention center.

The meeting was seen largely as a message to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who the White House believed was dragging his feet in signing off on guarantees that the five upcoming transferees did not pose a security threat, according to the wire service.. There’s speculation that Hagel’s resistance played a role in the president’s decision to remove the Pentagon chief, who announced his intention to resign last month.

Obama stressed to the officials that he wanted action on efforts to shutter the controversial facility. The president pledged in his 2008 campaign that he would close the prison, and has come under fire from critics on the left for failing to achieve that goal.

But while Obama has intensified efforts to close the prison unilaterally through detainee transfers, full closure of the prison has been complicated by Congress’s repeated refusal to authorize moving prisoners to facilities on U.S. soil. 

The $585 billion Defense authorization bill Obama signed on Friday included similar language, prompting a signing statement Obama arguing that “under certain circumstances” they would  “violate constitutional separation of powers principles.”

“The Guantánamo detention facility’s continued operation undermines our national security. We must close it,” Obama said. “I call on members from both sides of the aisle to work with us to bring this chapter of American history to a close.”


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