Six de­tainees sent from Guan­tanamo Bay to Oman

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY ADAM GOLD­MAN AND MISSY RYAN adam.gold­man@wash­post.com missy.ryan@wash­post.com

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has moved six Ye­meni de­tainees from the Guan­tanamo Bay detention cen­ter to Oman, the Pen­tagon said late Fri­day, the first time De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton B. Carter has ap­proved a trans­fer from the mil­i­tary pri­son in Cuba since tak­ing charge at the Pen­tagon in Fe­bru­ary.

Of­fi­cials have said that Carter has been tak­ing stock of the sit­u­a­tion at Guan­tanamo, which Pres­i­dent Obama has vowed to close be­fore he leaves of­fice in 2017. To al­low Obama to make good on his prom­ise, the Pen­tagon must re­set­tle pris­on­ers whom of­fi­cials have deemed non­threat­en­ing enough to go to a third coun­try. This spring, of­fi­cials had pre­viewed plans to re­set­tle as many as 10 de­tainees as early as June.

Be­fore the lat­est re­set­tle­ment, the pri­son held 122de­tainees, with 57 ap­proved for a trans­fer home or to a third coun­try. Most of the pris­on­ers have never been charged with a crime.

The Ye­me­nis sent to Oman are Idris Ah­mad Abdu Qadir Idris; Sharaf Ah­mad Muham­mad Ma­sud; Jalal Salam Awad Awad; Saad Bin Nasser Ibn Muk­bil al-Azani; Emad Ab­dal­lah Has­san; and Muham­mad Ali Salam al-Zar­nuqi. All have been in cus­tody for more than 13 years.

“The United States co­or­di­nated with the gov­ern­ment of Oman to en­sure th­ese trans­fers took place con­sis­tent with ap­pro­pri­ate se­cu­rity and hu­mane treat­ment mea­sures,” the Pen­tagon said.

Ac­cord­ing to U.S. mil­i­tary files dis­closed by the anti-se­crecy group Wiki Leaks, sev­eral were body­guards for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden be­fore the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks. Many were de­scribed as sea­soned fighters who trav­eled to Afghanistan and Pak­istan for mil­i­tant ac­tiv­i­ties.

But se­nior U.S. of­fi­cials have cau­tioned that un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, those files were scrubbed and reeval­u­ated. Some of the files’ in­for­ma­tion was dis­cred­ited, the of­fi­cials have said.

“The United States is very grate­ful to our part­ner, Oman, for this sig­nif­i­cant hu­man­i­tar­ian ges­ture, and ap­pre­ci­ates the gen­er­ous as­sis­tance of the Gov­ern­ment of Oman as we con­tinue our ef­forts to re­spon­si­bly re­duce the de­tainee pop­u­la­tion and ul­ti­mately close the detention fa­cil­ity at Guan­tanamo,” Charles Trum­bull, the act­ing spe­cial en­voy for Guan­tanamo clo­sure at the State Depart­ment, said in a state­ment Fri­day night.

The de­ci­sion to ap­prove trans­fers is a sig­nif­i­cant one for Carter, a vet­eran Pen­tagon bu­reau­crat. The hes­i­tancy of his pre­de­ces­sor, Chuck Hagel, to ap­prove trans­fers cre­ated fric­tion with the White House be­fore Hagel an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion last year.

The pres­sure on Carter to quickly re­duce Guan­tanamo’s pop­u­la­tion may be even greater, as law­mak­ers con­sider mea­sures that would all but halt the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans to re­set­tle in­mates. While Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has sug­gested that ac om­pro­mise may be pos­si­ble, other law­mak­ers have ar­gued that mov­ing or re­set­tling de­tainees threat­ens U.S. se­cu­rity.

In the event Congress does not per­mit Obama to re­set­tle more pris­on­ers, White House of­fi­cials have been ex­plor­ing op­tions for uni­lat­eral clo­sure.

Of­fi­cials said State Depart­ment of­fi­cials orig­i­nally ne­go­ti­ated a deal to trans­fer 10 Ye­me­nis to Oman. But af­ter a de­ci­sion was made to split the trans­fers, four of the men were sent to Oman in Jan­uary, the last trans­fer be­fore this week. A fifth Ye­meni was sent to Es­to­nia in Jan­uary.

A for­mer U.S. of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss de­tainee de­lib­er­a­tions, said that “any month that goes by with­out a trans­fer is un­der­min­ing the pres­i­dent’s pol­icy and is un­fair to the in­di­vid­u­als in­volved.”

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