President Barack Obama reportedly plans to transfer up to 18 more inmates out of Guantanamo Bay before the end of his presidency, Reuters reports.
The scheduled release will be the largest single inmate release of his presidency. The detainees will reportedly be bound for Italy, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The transfer will still leave nearly 40 inmates at the prison, which will soon be dealt with by President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.
One of Obama’s first acts as president was pledging to close the prison within a year — a promise he did not fulfill. Obama maintains the facility is an enduring symbol of shame for the U.S. and is used as a marketing tool by terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and the Islamic State.
In the last batch of prisoners released by Obama, all 15 were deemed “High” risk in Department of Defense (DOD) reviews. Each detainee’s DOD review, according to The New York Times Guantanamo Docket, classified him as “High Risk” and noted “he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests, and its allies.” Several of the detainees were also classified as “HIGH intelligence value.”
Guantanamo detainees have a history of returning to terrorist activity upon release. In early July, former Guantanamo Bay inmate Abu Wa’el Dhiab went missing in South America after he likely bordered a flight with a fake passport. Dhiab was released to Uruguay by the Obama administration in 2014.
Uruguay insisted Dhiab travel freely without restriction, raising questions about the safety of releasing known terrorists to countries willing to take them.
The U.S. released Taliban commander Abdul Qayyum Zakir from Guantanamo Bay to the government of Afghanistan in 2007. Zakir was subsequently released from Afghan prison for no apparent reason and returned to the Afghan battlefield as a senior commander. Zakir is reportedly heading military operations in Helmand province, where hundreds of U.S. Marines died between 2001-2014.