Defense

Report: Obama scolded Pentagon chief on Guantanamo transfers

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President Obama reprimanded Defense Secretary Ash Carter in September over the Pentagon’s slow approval for Guantanamo detainee transfers, according to a new Reuters special report

The scolding took place during a one-on-one meeting, according to administration officials briefed on the encounter, Reuters reported. 

“Since then, the Pentagon has been more cooperative. Administration officials said they expect to begin transferring at least 17 detainees to foreign countries in January,” according to the report. 

Since Obama took office in 2009, Pentagon officials have been throwing up “bureaucratic obstacles to thwart the president’s plan to close Guantanamo,” the report says. 

The obstacles include refusing to provide photographs, complete medical records and other basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take detainees. 

Pentagon officials have also reportedly made it increasingly difficult for foreign delegations to visit Guantanamo, limited the time foreign officials can interview detainees and barred delegations from spending the night at Guantanamo, the report said.

Due to these obstacles, “it is increasingly doubtful that Obama will fulfill a pledge he made to close the detention center,” it said. 

James Dobbins, the State Department’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 to 2014 said negotiating prisoner releases with the Pentagon was like “punching a pillow.”  

Pentagon delays resulted in four Afghan detainees spending an additional four years in the prison after being approved for transfer, he said.  

The delays were a factor in Obama’s decision to remove former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the report said. 

Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross said in a statement, “No foreign government or U.S. department has ever notified the Department of Defense that transfer negotiations collapsed due to a lack of information or access provided by the Department of Defense.”

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama pledged to close the facility, arguing it is used as a terrorist propaganda tool. 

But doing so has faced stiff resistance from members of Congress, mostly Republicans. 

The prison today holds 107 detainees. The administration’s plan is to get the number below 100 and argue that the cost per prisoner at the facility in Cuba is too high. 

When Obama took office, the prison had 242 detainees, according to Reuters. 

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