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US State Department's Guantanamo Envoy, Clifford Sloan, Resigns Over Pentagon's Slowness in Releasing Prisoners

December 23, 2014


U.S. State Department's Guantanamo envoy resigns

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON, Tuesday, Dec 23, 2014 6:28am EST

(Reuters) -

The State Department envoy responsible for negotiating prisoner transfers from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is resigning, officials said on Monday, even as President Barack Obama is promising a stepped-up push to close the facility.

The surprise announcement of Clifford Sloan’s departure followed a flurry of detainee repatriations and resettlements, though officials at the State Department and White House had made clear their frustration with the slow handling of such moves by outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Sloan assumed the post in July 2013 and the State Department said he was stepping down and returning to his Washington law practice after finishing an 18-month commitment.

A senior U.S. official said another factor in Sloan's decision was that the Pentagon “certainly hasn't been as helpful as they could have been” in speeding up the process of sending prisoners home or resettling them in other countries.

Still, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Sloan’s “skillful negotiating” led to the transfer of 34 detainees and “with more on the way.”

With the detainee population whittled down to 132, several more are expected to be transferred by year-end and that figure could reach low “double digits” as further moves involving “various nationalities” take place in following weeks, the senior official said.

Sloan’s resignation, which takes effect Dec. 31, is not likely to affect transfers already in the pipeline, but it remains to be seen what kind of impact it will have beyond that.

“I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it,” Obama told CNN in an interview broadcast on Sunday, renewing a pledge he made to shut the internationally condemned prison when he took office nearly six years ago.

He said keeping the prison open “continues to inspire jihadists” around the world and is “wildly expensive.”

But he faces obstacles posed by the U.S. Congress, not least of which is a ban on the transfer of prisoners to the U.S. mainland.

Sloan forged agreements that led to the repatriation of four Afghans last weekend and the resettlement of six prisoners in Uruguay in mid-December, but both deals faced delays at the Pentagon, which by law must give final approval.

Differences over the pace of transfers, the U.S. official said, added to friction between Hagel and Obama's inner circle that culminated in the defense secretary's resignation last month.

Obama has not decided on a replacement for Sloan.

Guantanamo was opened by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, to house militant suspects rounded up overseas. Most of the detainees have been held for a decade or more without being charged or tried.

Sixty-four prisoners have been cleared by an interagency review but the problem remains finding ways to send them home or identify other countries that will accept them.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Obama vows again to close Guantanamo prison

WASHINGTON, December 21, 2014 (Xinhua) --

 U.S. President Barrack Obama vowed Sunday that he will do everything possible to close the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"I'm going to be doing everything I can to close it," Obama said in an interview taped Friday and aired on a CNN's Sunday program.

"It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held," said Obama, adding that it "is contrary to our values."

Obama's statement came after his administration announced Saturday that four Afghans held at the Guantanamo prison had been sent home, in its latest efforts to close the infamous military prison.

The four men, identified as Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir, were unanimously approved for transfer after a review of their cases, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The review, part of an executive order signed by Obama in January 2009, examined a number of factors, including the security issue.

The repatriation of the four Afghans brings down to 132 the detention population at the secret Guantanamo prison, which was established by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to house terror suspects detained overseas.

Obama promised to close the widely condemned prison when he took office about six years ago.

Editor: yan


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