The resignation of a top Guantanamo Bay official has increased pressure to close the facility, but just a few days ago, the State Department admitted that a released prisoner has turned out to be a senior al-Qaida leader.
As far back as October, the State Department suspected that Ibrahim al-Rubaysh was a key al-Qaida leader and offered $5 million dollars for any information as his whereabouts of Rubaysh, designating him as a “senior AQAP Sharia official and advisor who provides the justification for the group’s attacks and participates in attack planning.”
But as of December 18, the State Department updated its analysis and declared al-Rubaysh, who was released in 2006, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist via Executive Order 13224. With this order in place, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with al-Rubyash. Moreover, the order also freezes all of the assets of the senior al-Qaida leader in the United States.
In August 2014, al-Rubaysh made public statements encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.
Despite this information being available as early as October, President Barack Obama hasn’t slowed down attempts to completely empty Guantanamo Bay of all detainees. According to Clifford Sloan, the official who just announced his resignation from Gitmo, the U.S. government has actually been too slow in transferring prisoners out and shuttering the facility. Sloan told the New York Times that he’d only planned to stay at his post for 18 months before leaving.
“At this point, we’re in a position to see a lot of progress,” Sloan said. “I’m strongly in favor of moving forward as promptly as we can on the president’s commitment to close the facility.”
“Cliff was very skillful negotiating with our foreign partners and allies, and it’s a big part of why we moved thirty-four detainees on his watch, with more on the way. Cliff also played a major role in our successful efforts to reform the Congressional restrictions on foreign transfers,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in addressing Sloan’s resignation.
Guantanamo Bay has seen a lot of action in the past few weeks. After the transfer of several prisoners to Uruguay, the Department of Defense released a number of others to Afghanistan on Saturday, leaving the total number of detainees at 132. The prison population hasn’t been this low in years, and on Sunday Obama vowed to fulfill the promise he made during his first week of office: to finally close down the facility, since according to the president, it continues to motivate terrorist attacks and stands in opposition to American values.
“I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it,” Obama told CNN in an interview on Sunday.
Some lawmakers are furious at Obama’s attempts to shutdown the facility, claiming that the move threatens national security and will only further motivate terrorists, rather than encourage them to drop their assaults against the United States. According to Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, Obama’s recent release of the 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.”
“He is trying to empty Guantánamo, and it is going to impact our national security,” New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte said.
No replacement has yet been selected for Sloan.
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