President Obama may be one step closer to getting his wish of closing down the controversial GITMO terrorist detention facility in Cuba by shipping them all off to one of the most unstable countries in the world: Yemen.
According to reports out of Yemen, U.S. and European officials have been in talks once again to fund a rehabilitation facility that would house prisoners currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention camp.
“Yemen is planning to construct a facility for the rehabilitation of the Yemeni detainees who the US has agreed to release them from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay,” the Yemen News Agency SABA is reporting.
Unfortunately, Yemen has also been plagued by a growing insurgency of extremists and its government has felt the brute force of Al Qaeda’s Yemen wing over the past four years. In early August, all non-essential U.S. employees and personnel were evacuated from Yemen when western intelligence agencies revealed that Al Qaeda had threatened dozens of U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide. Islamist militants also seized towns in 2012, raising the Al Qada flag and have frequently waged bloody attacks against Yemeni politicians and military personnel.
The poverty stricken nation has also become a refuge for hundreds of thousands of Somalians, a number of whom are connected to Al Qaeda in Africa, fleeing war in their own country.
“Sending Gitmo detainees to Yemen will ensure that they will be back to terrorizing the west again because there is absolutely no way of securing them in a facility,” said a U.S. Official, who works in the region and spoke on condition of anonymity. “These programs don’t work and they certainly won’t work in a nation as fragile – both economically and politically — as Yemen. There is no way of securing a facility there.”
A Yemeni official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject, said there are 88 Yemeni prisoners being held in Gitmo and admitted that the “situation is difficult.” Although the exact number of detainees from Yemen has been disputed, the Yemeni official stressed.
The closure of the Gitmo facility, located in the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval facility, was a top priority for Obama when he was first elected. The Obama administration’s plans were met harshly by lawmakers in the United States when reports that Al Qaeda and other terrorist connected prisoners would be brought to the U.S. to face trial, or be imprisoned here. Since then the White House has been looking for alternative measures that would allow them to close the facility.
Earlier this year Yemen agreed with the U.S. on a plan for the Reintegration and Risk Reduction Initiative. The facility, which would be constructed in Yemen, would be internationally funded.
The U.S. official said putting the prisoners at a rehabilitation facility “in Yemen even if it doesn’t work would let allow the president dig himself out of a whole and keep his promise to close Gitmo, even if it is a bad idea.”
Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said the delay in the facility, which the U.S. and Yemen have been discussing since earlier this year, can be attributed the “repatriation of Yemeni detainees held in Guantanamo to US procedures and laws as well as contrasting visions between the two US political parties on Guantanamo detainees fate,” said the Yemeni state-run Al-Thawra daily.
“Unfortunately, whenever we reach the consensus on the Guantanamo detainees, we take two steps back,” al-Qirbi told the news agency.
He noted that there was a meeting where specialists from Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the European Union were mulling “over the construction of the rehabilitation facility,” he added.
Al-Qirbi, who said his nation was working on some anti-terrorism campaigns, noted that the United States has agreed to return 55 people back to Yemen and added that “those are who do not pose a threat.”
He said the rehabilitation facility will “focus on a religious and cultural dialogue and job creation.”