WASHINGTON — With 15 days left in President Obama’s term, and an earlier vow to try to close Guantanamo before then, the Defense Department announced Thursday the transfer of four more detainees — and the White House said more transfer announcements should be expected.
The detainees are Salem Ahmad Hadi Bin Kanad, a Yemeni once elected prison block leader by fellow detainees; Muhammed Rajab Sadiq Abu Ghanim, a Yemeni former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden; Abdallah Yahya Yusif Al-Shibli, a Saudi who attended college in Yemen and trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; and Muhammad Ali Abdallah Muhammad Bwazir, a Yemeni al-Qaeda member who was determined in a 2008 Pentagon assessment to “probably seek out prior associates and reengage in hostilities and extremist support activities at home and abroad” should he be released without rehabilitation and “close supervision.”
Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said the detainees’ families requested that the kingdom take them; all will have to go through a rehab program at the Mohammed Bin Naif Center for Advice, Counseling and Care outside Riyadh. The resort-style reintegration for jihadists includes a pool and sauna, conjugal visits, art classes and gourmet meals.
The transfer leaves 55 detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
And White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters to expect “there will be some additional announcements” in the next two weeks, though he “can’t speak to timing.”
“I am not able to speak to any specific detainee transfers between now and January 20th other than to confirm for you that there are likely to be some. And whenever those transfers take place, once they have been completed we announce them publicly and that will continue to be our approach through January 20th,” Earnest said Thursday.
In August, with 61 detainees left and only 20 of those cleared for transfer, Earnest said the administration was working “to overcome the obstacles that Congress has erected to prevent the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”
“We’re going to do our best to try to get this closed. And it’s our expectation that that’s what we’ll do,” he said, adding that he couldn’t “lay out for you exactly the path for how that’s going to take place right now.”
“But the president has made clear that this is a priority. And he did that in the earliest days of his presidency, and it remains a priority here at — in the last several months of his presidency.”
That same month, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters abroad that it is his “hope and expectation” that Obama shuts Guantanamo.