Pentagon thwarting Obama's plan to close Guantanamo

Since President Obama came into office promising to close the prison camp in Guantanamo, the Pentagon has made it very clear through its actions that it believes it's a bad idea to allow the prisoners to be "transferred" – set free in another country – or released outright.

Considering that the most recent report from the director of national intelligence on how many Guantanamo detainees who have been released have rejoined the fight shows a significant increase, the Pentagon may have a point.

The military has been dragging its heels on releasing inmates who have been cleared for transfer, and as you can imagine, this doesn't sit well with the White House or State Department.

Reuters:

In interviews with multiple current and former administration officials involved in the effort to close Guantanamo, Reuters found that the struggle over Ba Odah's medical records was part of a pattern. Since Obama took office in 2009, these people said, Pentagon officials have been throwing up bureaucratic obstacles to thwart the president's plan to close Guantanamo.

Negotiating prisoner releases with the Pentagon was like "punching a pillow," said James Dobbins, the State Department special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 to 2014. Defense Department officials "would come to a meeting, they would not make a counter-argument," he said. "And then nothing would happen."

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

In other cases, the transfers of six prisoners to Uruguay, five to Kazakhstan, one to Mauritania and one to Britain were delayed for months or years by Pentagon resistance or inaction, officials said.

To slow prisoner transfers, Pentagon officials have refused to provide photographs, complete medical records and other basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take detainees, administration officials said. They have 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 Pentagon pleads its innocence, saying that no prisoner has ever been denied release because of a failure to supply records that are requested.  But the commandinhg general of Southern Command, John Kelly, may have an added incentive to keep the prison open:

Military officials, however, continue to make transfers more difficult and protracted than necessary, administration officials said. In particular, they cite General John F. Kelly, in charge of the U.S. Southern Command, which includes Guantanamo. They said that Kelly, whose son was killed fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, opposes the president's policy of closing Guantanamo, and that he and his command have created obstacles for visiting delegations.

Kelly denied that he or his command has limited delegation visits. "Our staff works closely with the members of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay and Joint Task Force Guantanamo to support the visits of all foreign delegations," he said in a written statement, "and have never refused or curtailed one of these visits."

The prisoners Obama wants to transfer are referred to as "low risk."  That term has never been adequately defined for Congress or the American people.  As a result, several of these "low risk" prisoners turn out to be risky, indeed, as they rejoin the fight eager to kill Americans.

It's hard to tell how much Pentagon foot-dragging is simple bureaucratic inertia or deliberate sabotage.  As it stands now, when President Obama leaves office, there will still be dozens of hardened terrorists being kept from killing Americans because Guantanamo is still open.

Since President Obama came into office promising to close the prison camp in Guantanamo, the Pentagon has made it very clear through its actions that it believes it's a bad idea to allow the prisoners to be "transferred" – set free in another country – or released outright.

Considering that the most recent report from the director of national intelligence on how many Guantanamo detainees who have been released have rejoined the fight shows a significant increase, the Pentagon may have a point.

The military has been dragging its heels on releasing inmates who have been cleared for transfer, and as you can imagine, this doesn't sit well with the White House or State Department.

Reuters:

In interviews with multiple current and former administration officials involved in the effort to close Guantanamo, Reuters found that the struggle over Ba Odah's medical records was part of a pattern. Since Obama took office in 2009, these people said, Pentagon officials have been throwing up bureaucratic obstacles to thwart the president's plan to close Guantanamo.

Negotiating prisoner releases with the Pentagon was like "punching a pillow," said James Dobbins, the State Department special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 to 2014. Defense Department officials "would come to a meeting, they would not make a counter-argument," he said. "And then nothing would happen."

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

In other cases, the transfers of six prisoners to Uruguay, five to Kazakhstan, one to Mauritania and one to Britain were delayed for months or years by Pentagon resistance or inaction, officials said.

To slow prisoner transfers, Pentagon officials have refused to provide photographs, complete medical records and other basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take detainees, administration officials said. They have 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 Pentagon pleads its innocence, saying that no prisoner has ever been denied release because of a failure to supply records that are requested.  But the commandinhg general of Southern Command, John Kelly, may have an added incentive to keep the prison open:

Military officials, however, continue to make transfers more difficult and protracted than necessary, administration officials said. In particular, they cite General John F. Kelly, in charge of the U.S. Southern Command, which includes Guantanamo. They said that Kelly, whose son was killed fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, opposes the president's policy of closing Guantanamo, and that he and his command have created obstacles for visiting delegations.

Kelly denied that he or his command has limited delegation visits. "Our staff works closely with the members of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay and Joint Task Force Guantanamo to support the visits of all foreign delegations," he said in a written statement, "and have never refused or curtailed one of these visits."

The prisoners Obama wants to transfer are referred to as "low risk."  That term has never been adequately defined for Congress or the American people.  As a result, several of these "low risk" prisoners turn out to be risky, indeed, as they rejoin the fight eager to kill Americans.

It's hard to tell how much Pentagon foot-dragging is simple bureaucratic inertia or deliberate sabotage.  As it stands now, when President Obama leaves office, there will still be dozens of hardened terrorists being kept from killing Americans because Guantanamo is still open.