Obama’s Yemeni Detainee Problem

This week, President Obama announced his intention to lift the ban on the transfer of prisoners from GITMO to Yemen.

President Obama will announce Thursday that the White House plans to lift the ban on sending detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Yemen, Fox News confirms, a move that could effectively resume efforts to close down the prison.

That effort, however, has been stymied because many countries don’t want the detainees or are unwilling or unable to guarantee that once transferred, detainees who may continue to be a threat will not be released.

There are currently about 166 prisoners at Guantanamo, and 86 have been approved for transfer as long as security restrictions are met.

This week, the Pentagon asked Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo prison. More than 100 of the prisoners have launched a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention, and the military earlier this month was force-feeding 30 of them to keep them from starving to death. Source: FOX news

The Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Leopold notes that the Obama administration intends to start with 30 non-Yemeni detainees.  Hagel will have to approve any orders for release, but there’s a reason Obama fought for him as the nominee and I’ve got a feeling this was part of the bigger picture. The Atlantic has some more background on this and hilariously links to ProPublica as a source.

I’ve written before about the problems with Obama’s intention to release various terrorists of Yemeni origin from GITMO. Yemen has been a hotbed of activity lately, despite this administrations best efforts to prop up the government and its military with weapons and drones. The Yemeni government says they can handle it, but that doesn’t seem likely as Obama’s own drone program has made the US more hated than ever in Yemen. Read: US Terror Drone Strike Kills 2 In Yemen

Last Fall, Breitbart pointed out that one of the attackers in Benghazi was believed to be a former GITMO detainee:

President Barack Obama is about to release or transfer 55 Gitmo prisoners, despite reports that the Libyan believed to be behind the killing of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens was a former Guantanamo inmate transferred to Libyan custody.

The large percentage of those scheduled to be released are Yemeni, according to a list made public by the Obama administration.

Obama stopped the release or transfer of Yemeni inmates in 2010, because the conditions in the country were viewed as too “unsettled” at the time.

Embedded in that snippet is the list of detainees being considered. Here at LL1885, we looked into some of their dossiers to see the threat assessment on them. From what we viewed, few of them seemingly have a threat assessment worthy of release; most had medium to high risk assessments.

For example, the last one on the release list is Belckacem Bensayah ISN 10001 with a threat assessment of HIGH risk to the US and its allies as well as being a HIGH intelligence value detainee; he has an extensive list of terrorist activities and known associations to Al Qaeda (begins on page 5):

(S//NF) Reasons for Continued Detention:

Detainee is an assessed member of the GIA and was arrested, along with other assessed members of a terrorist group, in response to terrorist threats against the US Embassy in Sarajevo.

Detainee was the Bosnia-based contact for senior al-Qaida facilitator GZ-10016. Detainee is identified as a financier and facilitator who coordinated pre-travel arrangements for extremists en route to Afghanistan to participate in hostilities against US and Coalition forces. Detainee is a veteran mujahid who received advanced training at an al-Qaida associated training camp and an extremist camp in Bosnia.Detainee is linked to other members of al-Qaida’s GJSN, including those tied to the Millennium Plot and to extremist NGOs.

For the uninitiated, the “GIA” referenced above is the Armed Islamic Group. This group is tied to the ‘Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’ (AQIM) operating mainly in and around Tunisia.  From FrontPage Magazine:

Prior to 2011, most analysts had concluded that AQIM had largely failed to integrate the key North African militant movements in existence at the time of the GSPC’s merger with al Qaeda in 2006, a move that saw the GSPC change its name to AQIM. While there were certainly Moroccans, Tunisians, and Libyans in AQIM, the organization was still dominated by Algerians, though Mauritanians began to play more significant roles as the group increased its presence and operations in the Sahara after 2004 and 2005. There are diverse reasons for this disposition, including (but not limited to) the massive imprisonment of Libyans after the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s (LIFG) failed offensive in Libya, the strained relationship between the LIFG and the GSPC’s predecessor the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), the major crackdowns on Moroccan and Tunisian Salafis and Salafi-jihadis following the Djerba Synagogue attack in 2002 and the passage of Tunisia’s new anti-terrorism law in 2003, and the wave of bombings that struck Casablanca in 2003.

Interaction between Tunisian and Algerian militants, by available indications, remained somewhat limited, though GSPC networks likely helped Tunisian and other North African fighters travel to Iraq. A good example of these limited connections is the Suleiman Group; while the group would eventually recruit up to 40 members, only a handful (one of whom was Mauritanian) received training with the GSPC in Algeria. And according to scholar and researcher Alison Pargeter there is little evidence that the GSPC provided funding or other support to the Suleiman Group once they left Algeria.

It is clear that by late 2011, however, that significant numbers of arms and explosives were pouring across Algeria’s eastern border, with some coming straight from Libya, and others traversing Tunisia before entering Algeria. The region of Tébessa in particular, which abuts the Tunisian border and in particular the area around Jebel Chaambi, became known as an entrepôt for all sorts of small arms. According to an Algerian account from October 2012, one dealer was even offering a gold-plated Smith & Wesson that he claimed had belonged to deposed Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi.

The full article at FrontPage is very involved, but well worth your time.  It ties together multiple terrorist groups in the region including the ties to Ansar Al Sharia – the group responsible for the death of four Americans in Benghazi.

At a time when we are seeing terrorists attacks on our diplomatic missions and jihad on our own soil, the recent revelation this administration killed four Americans by drone strike(3 by mistake!) and a White House embroiled in half a dozen scandals, one has to ask how releasing any of these detainees makes sense?

The answer is it doesn’t, unless you’re a President in perpetual campaign mode looking to try to salvage something of his base.  That’s probably going to be hard to do when you have a President who only knows about what is going on in his own administration from the newspapers.

Waiting for the newspapers? RT @petesouza: POTUS during yesterday’s Presidential Daily Briefing twitter.com/petesouza/stat…

— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) May 23, 2013

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