The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged Thursday that military leaders aren’t “content” about the prospect of former Guantanamo detainees finding a new home in the ranks of ISIS.
Fox News reported that as many as 20 to 30 former Guantanamo Bay detainees, some set free within the past few years, are believed to have joined terrorist groups fighting in Syria.
“Well, we know that some of the detainees that have come out of Guantanamo have gone back to the fight, to the battlefield. We’re aware of that,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters. “And we think that overall the policy of getting to close Guantanamo is clearly in the interests of the United States, as the president has articulated, which when I — I was in the United States Senate, I supported it.”
“It’s an imperfect world. It’s a dangerous world,” Hagel continued. “This is why we pay so much attention to getting commitments from host countries in securing those commitments and doing everything we can within our power to assure that those commitments, not to allow those detainees to go beyond what is required in order to secure them in these different host countries that take them. But we do know that some have joined the fight.”
“Host countries” have included Sudan, where leader Omar al-Bashir is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The country received one detainee last December.
Asked if this recidivism bothered him, Hagel replied, “Yes, of course it does.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey added, “We believe that the recidivism is a — is a relatively small fraction of those detainees, which have been placed into conditions where their risk — where their risk of recidivism is mitigated.”
“But even one would not make someone wearing the uniform very content,” Dempsey said. “So we — I provide my advice in every case to the secretary of Defense who, as you know, is the certifying official. And the exact number is actually being assessed inside of the intelligence community, so I can’t comment on that.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the 30 percent who return to battle aren’t just going in as low-level fighters, but “they also are in positions of leadership.”
“In one case, there are many Yemenis, he wants to send them back there. So rather than to have a place it to incarcerate them where they belong, particularly there’s many who have been judged too dangerous to be released,” McCain said. “The president wants to get rid of them in order to close Guantanamo. That’s the overriding factor in his calculations and it’s disgraceful, because in the long run, it puts the lives of American men and women serving in the military in danger. It’s a fact.”