What to do with the 95 Yemenis at Gitmo now?

In the last two months, al-Qaeda has either masterminded or supported two terrorist attacks on the US from its base in Yemen.  The influence shows that the terrorist network has recalibrated itself to compensate for the pressure on its leadership in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater, and that the Yemeni territory that gave rise to AQ in the first place has become once again the center of a major global threat.  That makes the Obama administration’s plans to return 95 hardened terrorists from Gitmo right into Jihadi Central just a little bit … awkward:

“I’d expect Yemen’s handling of returned Guantanamo detainees to come under intense U.S. scrutiny,” said Matthew Waxman, a Columbia law professor who was an assistant Defense secretary for detainee affairs under President George W. Bush. “In the past, the Yemeni government has not shown great capacity or reliability, but the U.S. hopes to build a stronger partnership and improve that record, in part because it has few other options in this important region.”

The White House had no comment on how Abdulmutallab’s history might impact future prisoner releases or official dealings with Yemen. However, U.S. officials have worked intensely in recent months to support the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and to obtain assurances that Yemenis returned home would not take part in violence. …

In September, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, visited Yemen to press for greater action against Al Qaeda and discuss logistical issues surrounding prisoner releases. And earlier this month, Obama telephoned Saleh to praise him for recent raids against Al Qaeda and for the nation’s overall cooperation with the U.S. in counterterrorism efforts, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.

While the White House maintains that it is pressing Yemen on both the Al Qaeda and prisoner issues, Hoekstra said the issue of emptying out Guantanamo seems to have priority. “The president appears single-mindely focused on closing Guantanamo. He spends more time and energy on closing Guantanamo than on any of the other issues,” said the Michigan Republican.

It does seem that Yemen has become more cooperative on fighting al-Qaeda.  That doesn’t mean that the best way to reward them is to dump almost a hundred terrorists in their back yard to attempt to woo back to rationality.  Whether they want them back or not, sending the Gitmo detainees back now while the network in Yemen is growing is nothing short of idiotic.

One of the people we killed in those raids, Saeed al-Shehri, was a former Gitmo detainee returned by the Bush administration who became a leader in the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) branch in Yemen.   Do we want 95 more Shehris in Yemen now?

The priority for this administration should not be “emptying out” Gitmo. It should be securing the US and defeating our enemy.  Our enemy now operates with near-impunity from Yemen and has already conducted two attacks on the US, one of which resulted in 14 deaths and the other could have killed hundreds in the air and others on the ground.  Allowing 95 of their allies to run back to Yemen now would demonstrate the victory of political expediency over national security.  It’s time to close the revolving door on Gitmo and keep the terrorists where we can make sure they don’t attack Americans again.