GOP senator calls on Obama to halt Guantanamo detainee transfers

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week MORE (R-Ark.) on Monday called on the Obama administration to halt any further transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees, after it announced another release over the weekend. 

"The inmates remaining at Guantanamo are the worst of the worst and need to remain where they are so they cannot return to the battlefield and attack us once again," Cotton said in a statement. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"President Obama should listen to the will of the people and halt any further Guantanamo transfers," he said. 

The Obama administration has tried to speed transfers as it winds up its tenure. President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE has pledged to keep the facility open, and to fill it with more terrorist suspects. 

Cotton, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said the transfer showed that Obama is more concerned with fulfilling his campaign pledge to shut down the detention facility than national security. 

“President Obama is spending his last days in office making America less safe by rushing to fulfill one final campaign promise and release hardened terrorists from Guantanamo Bay," he said. 

"Yesterday's transfer, and any others between now and January 20, 2017, illustrate that President Obama is more concerned with his own legacy than national security," he added.

The Pentagon announced Sunday it had transferred Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, a 35-year-old Yemeni, to the Government of Cabo Verde, a tiny nation off the northwest coast of Africa. The transfer brings the number of detainees remaining down to 59.

In 2008, the joint task force in charge of detainees said in an executive summary that Balzuhair is an al-Qaeda operative "who planned to participate in terrorist operations targeting U.S. forces in Karachi, Pakistan, and possibly inside the United States.”

Balzuhair was also deemed a "HIGH" risk and "likely to pose a threat" to the U.S., its interests and allies.

In announcing the transfer, however, the Pentagon said a board consisting of representatives from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence determined that his detention "does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.” 

The U.S. thanked Cabo Verde for its help in taking the Balzuhair. 

"The United States is grateful to the Government of Cabo Verde for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the Pentagon statement said.