Pentagon: First Gitmo transfer under Trump could happen 'soon'

Pentagon: First Gitmo transfer under Trump could happen 'soon'
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The Pentagon on Tuesday said it hopes to “soon” transfer a Guantánamo Bay detainee to his home country of Saudi Arabia, in line with his plea agreement.

If the detainee, Ahmed al-Darbi, is transferred, he would be the first person to leave the facility since President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE took office.

Al-Darbi in 2014 pleaded guilty before a military commission to charges related to helping plot a 2002 al Qaeda attack on a French oil tanker.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, he was to testify against two other Guantánamo detainees awaiting trials by the military tribunal. In exchange, he would be allowed to serve the remainder of his 13-year sentence in a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia.

His agreement stipulated he would be transferred four years after his guilty plea, a date that came Tuesday.

In a statement Tuesday, Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Sarah Higgins said al-Darbi’s transfer “will not take place today” as the Pentagon waits for “assurances” from Saudi Arabia.

“We await assurances from the Saudi Arabian government to move forward on his departure,” she said. “Al-Darbi will remain at Guantánamo until all transfer details are concluded. Thus far, al-Darbi has complied with all terms of his plea agreement.”

The Pentagon “hopes the transfer will take place soon,” she said.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to “load” Guantánamo “up with bad dudes,” though no one new has been sent there since he took office.

On the other hand, none of the 41 detainees who were there when Trump took office have been released. No other detainee besides al-Darbi has a plea deal that specifies their release, but five detainees were cleared for transfer during the Obama administration by the parole-like panels known as the periodic review boards.

Last month, Trump reaffirmed his desire to keep Guantánamo open and potentially send new detainees there by signing an executive order that rescinds former President Obama’s order to close the facility. Trump’s order also requires Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAmash rips Trump over move to send troops from Syria to Iraq Defense chief says US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours MORE to provide recommendations on how to handle any potential newly captured individuals.