A Pentagon spokesman told reporters today that he didn’t know one way or the other if Senegal received taxpayer money to take two Guantanamo detainees.
Press secretary Peter Cook also said the Defense Department couldn’t reveal what the security arrangements would be like for the two Libyan jihadists there.
The department today announced the transfer of Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby, a Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) “guesthouse operator,” explosives expert and “veteran jihad fighter” who fought with bin Laden at Tora Bora, and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar, an LIFG and al-Qaeda trainer and explosives expert.
Secretary of State John Kerry lauded Senegal for their “significant humanitarian gesture” in taking the Libyans as the Obama administration tries to liquidate a large chunk of the prison’s population.
But there was a recurring question at the Defense briefing: What did the African nation get in return?
“I’m not sure there was a payment made. I’m happy to ask the question and try to get an answer for you. But I don’t — I don’t know that a payment was made in this instance,” Cook replied.
When it was noted that Senegal must have gotten something, he replied, “We’re greatly appreciate of the government of Senegal for assisting in this.”
“We deeply appreciate the — the actions of the government of Senegal and they’re not the first government to step up and — and provide this kind of assistance in a complicated situation with regard to Guantanamo and — so we appreciate what they did.”
Pressed on the lack of transparency around the transfer, Cook said Senegal could discuss the details if that government wished — including questions of security.
In 2008 DoD assessments, both Libyans were deemed to remain a high threat to the U.S. and its interests.
“That transfer would not have taken place if the secretary was not satisfied with steps that were put in place. Obviously, these individuals had to be reviewed, first of all, to be deemed eligible for transfer, and so the secretary was satisfied after his careful review and scrutiny that this was a transfer — these were transfers that could be done — that were appropriate to be done at this time,” Cook said.
“I’m not going to get into the details about the specific circumstances these two individuals will deal with in Senegal itself. I would refer you to the Senegalese government, but we worked closely with the government of Senegal, and again, we appreciate their efforts… this will aid us in responsibly closing Guantanamo.”