By Saagar Enjeti
The Pentagon’s chief spokesman brushed off President-elect Donald Trump’s Tuesday call to cease Guantanamo Bay detainee releases, saying the U.S. military only serves one commander in chief at a time.
President Barack Obama is reportedly slated to release 18 prisoners before the end of his term, the largest single release in the prison’s history. Obama pledged to close the prison in 2009, and has worked tirelessly to transfer as many detainees as possible.
“We’re going to carry out the appropriate policies set forth by the commander-in-chief,” Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook told reporters after Trump tweeted about the releases Tuesday. Trump’s tweet highlighted the danger of freed terrorists returning to the battlefield.
There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017
In the last batch of prisoners released by Obama, all 15 were deemed “High Risk” in Department of Defense (DOD) reviews. Each detainee’s DOD review, according to The New York Times Guantanamo Docket, noted “he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests, and its allies.” Several of the detainees were also classified as “HIGH intelligence value.”
Guantanamo detainees have a history of returning to terrorist activity upon release. In early July, former Guantanamo Bay inmate Abu Wa’el Dhiab went missing in South America after he likely bordered a flight with a fake passport. Dhiab was released to Uruguay by the Obama administration in 2014.
Uruguay insisted Dhiab travel freely without restriction, raising questions about the safety of releasing known terrorists to countries willing to take them.
The U.S. released Taliban commander Abdul Qayyum Zakir from Guantanamo Bay to the government of Afghanistan in 2007. Zakir was subsequently released from Afghan prison for no apparent reason and returned to the Afghan battlefield as a senior commander. Zakir is reportedly heading military operations in Helmand province, where hundreds of U.S. Marines died between 2001 and 2014.