Overnight, five more Guantanamo Bay detainees were released from American custody as the process of emptying out the prison facility accelerates. That brings the total of Guantanamo detainees released just this month to nine.
“The two men from Tunisia and three from Yemen — who have been at the camp for a dozen years — had been cleared for release from the prison by a government task force but could not be sent to their homelands,” Fox News reported on Wednesday.
Of the approximately 800 Guantanamo prisoners who were housed in that facility during the Bush administration, only 127 now remain.
The U.S. identified the Yemenis as Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, who is about 46; Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna, who is about 36; and Sabri Mohammad al Qurashi, about 44.
According to a 2007 Defense document, posted on The New York Times website, Al-Khalaqi was “assessed” to be part of Al Qaeda and was captured alongside an Al Qaeda commander at Tora Bora.
Al Qurashi, likewise, allegedly got “militant training” at an Al Qaeda training camp and was arrested at an Al Qaeda safe house. Both were assessed to be “medium risk.”
The U.S. identified the Tunisians as 49-year-old Adel Al-Hakeemy, and Abdallah Bin Ali al Lufti, who military records show is about 48.
The Telegraph reported on December 12. “This case added to the impression that Qatar has a ‘historical legacy of negligence’ in the struggle against Islamist extremism that ‘stretches back over two decades,’ says the report.”
Incidentally, Qatar is the nation that accepted the return of the “Taliban Five,” a set of high-ranking Taliban prisoners released in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in the spring. According to a Taliban statement, those prisoners were visited in October by two senior members of the Haqqani network.
Fox’s Catherine Herridge indicated at the time that American officials could not deny the charge
Asked about the Taliban statement, and the reported meeting between known members of the Haqqani terror network and the former Guantanamo detainees, neither the government of Qatar nor the CIA provided comment. Significantly, no denial was issued.
The Pentagon, contacted about the report in advance of Tuesday’s briefing, appeared to be on the same talking points — also offering no denial, and no detail.
These prisoners have to go somewhere, and without formal charges it will not be a facility in a Western nation. Qatar and Yemen, a nation the Pentagon believes cannot prevent Guantanamo detainees from rejoining al-Qaeda’s ranks, are out of the question. So, a new relationship with Kazakhstan is a relatively welcome development.
The writing is on the wall: Guantanamo Bay is going to be a ghost town before the end of the Obama presidency. Of all the places that detainees eligible for release might end up, Kazakhstan is high on the list of suitable candidate countries. At least, it is for now.