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Guantanamo envoy quits

Guantanamo envoy quits
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The State Department official responsible for negotiating the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay is stepping down.

Clifford Sloan served as the department's envoy to the detention center in Cuba for the past 18 months.

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He told The New York Times that he was not leaving the post due to disagreements with the Pentagon over the pace of detainee transfers, which he argued has been too slow.

“At this point, we’re in a position to see a lot of progress,” he told the newspaper. “I’m strongly in favor of moving forward as promptly as we can on the president’s commitment to close the facility.”

President Obama pledged during his campaign to close the facility at Guantánamo Bay in his first week in office. But he’s met repeated resistance on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers in both parties have refused to allow prisoners to be transferred to federal prisons in the United States.

The administration has transferred detainees to their home countries, but that has been a slow and difficult process.

“I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it,” Obama said on Sunday during an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held. It is contrary to our values and it is wildly expensive.”

On Saturday, the Defense Department announced it had transferred four additional detainees back to Afghanistan, bringing the total population at the detention center down to 132, the lowest number in years.

Closing the facility could be difficult, with Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate beginning in January.

On Monday, GOP Sens. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 Bottom line MORE (N.H.), both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized the president’s policy.

The latest release of four prisoners “will only serve to embolden terrorists in the region and around the world to continue the fight against America and its allies, overseas and here at home,” Inhofe said.

“He is trying to empty Guantánamo, and it is going to impact our national security,” Ayotte said.

Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick Paris Agreement: Biden's chance to restore international standing Kerry promises Europeans Biden will seek to make up time on climate action MORE said Sloan’s negotiating skills were a “big part of why we moved 34 four detainees on his watch, with more on the way.”

“I’m convinced that there’s a finish line in sight now because of the strides we made in 2014 especially, and Cliff’s a big part of that progress,” he added.

— This story was corrected at 11:04 a.m.