Guantanamo Bay closing down constitutes an old-time promise by United States President Barack Obama, and he is racing against the clock to fulfill it before his term runs out. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced Wednesday that the Obama administration is in the final stages of drafting a plan to annul the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain has expressed his support of the prison closing, indicating that he wants to give Obama the leeway to do so through the National Defense Authorization Act, according to Time. McCain recommends that Congress review the White House plan for the Guantanamo Bay closing.
The Guantanamo Bay prison has always been a bone of contention for Republicans and Democrats, and its closing was pledged by Obama back in 2009 following his election as president. He wanted to jettison the facility during his first year in office, but opposition by Congressional Republicans derailed his intent.
According to BBC News, Josh Earnest referred to a Guantanamo Bay closing as a matter of national security interest.
In his statement Wednesday, he said, “That has been something that our national security officials have been working on for some time, primarily because it is a priority of the president.”
Earnest revealed that the U.S. government has been gradually sending prisoners back to their own or other countries in line with the expected Guantanamo Bay closing. This trimming down of the prison population coincides with a White House determination that detaining suspected terrorists indefinitely provides Islamist groups with a propaganda tool for recruiting fighters.
Of the 116 detainees remaining in the Guantanamo Bay facility, 51 of them have already been approved for release but are still being held. Since the Bush administration established it in 2002 for terror suspects, some 800 men have been processed by this facility, with a peak of 684 detainees in 2003. A ban preventing the transfer of these prisoners into the U.S. has been an impediment to closing the prison down.
Meanwhile, Cuba joined the debate at the official opening of its embassy in Washington last Monday.
During the event, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla called for the return of “the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo,” and CNN quoted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as responding, “At this time there is no discussion and no intention on our part at this moment to alter the existing lease treaty or other arrangements with respect to the naval station.”
Cuban sentiments aside, the Obama administration is tasked with winning more congressional support like McCain’s, for its plan. Smarting from the swap of U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl for Taliban prisoners, other Congressional Republicans may not be as quick to endorse a Guantanamo Bay closing.
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