Two men detained for years without charge in Guantanamo Bay — one Yemeni and one Afghan whose repatriation most likely requires an agreement with the Taliban — have been cleared for transfer, according to documents released Wednesday.
The Inter-agency Periodic Review Board approved the transfers of Sanad Yislam al-Kazimi and Assadullah Haroon Gul with security arrangements, but did not suggest where Mr Gul, an Afghan citizen detained by the US military since 2007, might be sent .
The administration said Mr al-Kazimi should be resettled in Oman, a country in the Persian Gulf bordering his native Yemen, whose rehabilitation program received 30 inmates during the Obama administration. Yemen is considered too unstable to monitor and help rehabilitate returnees.
The council approved the transfer of Mr. al-Kazimi on Oct. 7, less than two weeks after the State Department official responsible for overseeing the transfer of detainees, John T. Godfrey, Oman, the United States. Arab Emirates and London in his capacity as Acting Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.
Biden government officials declined to comment on attempts to repatriate or resettle the released detainees.
Al-Kazimi, 41, was captured in Dubai in January 2003. U.S. military intelligence considered him to be Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard in Afghanistan. Al-Kazimi’s attorney Martha Rayner, a professor at Fordham Law School, said he was in “pretty good” health and “looking forward to being transferred as soon as possible.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and other officials have said the president’s goal is to clear the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and revive a promise President Barack Obama made when Mr. Biden was vice president. to blow in.
Congress thwarted that effort by banning the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo to the United States for any reason. The Biden administration has made no progress in lifting the restriction, which would be an important step towards closing the prison. Only one detainee, Abdul Latif Nasser of Morocco, has been released since Mr Biden took office, and that was under an agreement reached during the Obama administration.
Wednesday’s revelations have led to 12 men among 39 Guantanamo wartime prisoners who could be released if the United States can reach an agreement with a host country to impose security restrictions, including measures such as limiting their assets. to travel abroad.
Another 12 are in military commission proceedings, six of whom are being charged in main cases. The other 15 prisoners are being held as “prisoners of war”, essentially forever prisoners of the conflict that began after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Ms Rayner said Mr al-Kazimi wanted to be transferred to an Arabic-speaking country where he could be reunited with his wife and see “his four children and his grandchildren one day”.
“He wants to live in peace in a stable country,” she said. But she added that Mr al-Kazimi is “concerned about the unknowns ahead – and knows that many men have been acquitted and have been languishing for years anyway.”
Mr. Gul’s transfer poses more problems. His lawyers have sought his release through an illegal request for detention in federal court, and last year they received support for his repatriation from the government of Afghanistan before it fell to the Taliban.
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He was captured by Afghan forces while serving as commander of the Hezb-i-Islami militia, which fought alongside the Taliban and Al Qaeda against the US and allied invasion of Afghanistan. The board said in its decision, also dated October 7, that it had concluded that he could be transferred safely, with security arrangements, in light of his “lack of leadership role in extremist organizations and his lack of a clear ideological basis for his past behavior.” It made no recommendation as to where to go.
The United States has repatriated more than 200 Afghan detainees during the nearly 20 years of holding detainees at Guantánamo, all while Afghanistan was run by a government allied with and supported by the United States.
Oman is considered an ideal, culturally compatible nation to receive Yemeni prisoners. The country’s program has generated no controversy whatsoever and has helped Yemeni prisoners find homes and jobs and in some cases has allowed relatives in Yemen to send women to marry them.
In contrast, human rights groups and lawyers for some former detainees have criticized the program in the United Arab Emirates for continuing to detain detainees sent there for rehabilitation and resettlement and then suddenly repatriating some of them to Afghanistan and Yemen.