The US Department of Defense on Aug. 15 announced the transfer of 15 Guantánamo detainees to the United Arab Emirates. Twelve of the detainees were from Yemen, and the other three were from Afghanistan. Six of the detainees had been approved for release since 2009, and the others were cleared for release more recently. Thirteen of the detainees had never faced any charges, and two of the Afghan detainees had their military commission charges drops. This marks the largest single detainee transfer so far, as the Obama administration works toward its goal of shuttering the detention center. After these transfers, there are 61 detainees remaining at Guantánamo.
The White House said July 1 that between 64 and 116 civilians have been killed by drone and other US strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya since Barack Obama took office in 2009. But this first public assessment by the administration put the civilian death toll significantly lower than estimates by various human rights groups, which range as high as 1,000 killed. Obama also signed an executive order outlining US policies to limit civilian casualties, and ostensibly making protection of civilians a central element in US military operations planning. The order requires an annual release of casualty estimates, and says the government should include "credible reporting" by non-government groups when it reviews strikes to determine if civilians were killed.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced the transfer of nine Yemeni Guantánamo Bay detainees to Saudi Arabia on April 16 as it continues efforts to close the facility. The prisoners would have been sent back to their home country but were instead transfer to Saudi Arabia due to the instability in Yemen. Eight of the detainees had been cleared for release since 2009, after an extensive review, and 26 more are also cleared and expected to be released this summer. At the end of March, a US government official said the DoD told Congress that it plans to transfer as many as 12 prisoners from Guantánamo in the coming weeks. Eighty detainees remain at the facility.
The US military killed "dozens" of AQAP fighters in an air-strike that targeted a training camp in western Yemen March 22. The Pentagon claims that the strike—on a camp in Hajr, in mountains west of the port city of Mukallah—will deny AQAP "safe haven," but the air campaign waged by the US against the al-Qaeda franchise since 2009 has done little to halt its advance. Since launching an offensive last year, AQAP has gained control of at least eight cities and towns in Yemen, including the provincial capitals of Hadramout (Mukallah), Abyan (Zinjibar) and Lahj (Houta). (See map.) (Long War Journal, BBC News, March 23)
US President Barack Obama delivered his plan to close Guantánamo Bay (PDF) to Congress on Feb. 23. This plan comes seven years after Obama first announced he planned to shut down the prison by the end of his presidency. Under the proposed plan, detainees not fit for US prosecution or deportation would be transferred to a yet-undisclosed detention facility in the US. The plan also prioritizes transferring detainees to their home countries when possible, or resettlement in third countries. The plan states that "closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is a national security imperative. Its continued operation weakens our national security by furthering the recruiting propaganda of violent extremists, hindering relations with key allies and partners, and draining Department of Defense resources."
Two of three Guantánamo Bay detainees scheduled for release boarded a plane for transfer on Jan. 20 while the third detainee turned down the opportunity. Though the two released detainees were natives of Egypt and Yemen, they were resettled in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The third detainee, Yemeni national Mohammed Bawazir, has gained a reputation for hunger striking as a protest against his 14 years of captivity without trial. Though Bawazir originally agreed to resettle in an unidentified country, he changed his mind reportedly upon realizing that he would not be returning to any family. Currently, 91 detainees remain in Guantánamo Bay, and 34 await resettlement in foreign countries.
The Foreign Ministry of Oman on Jan. 14 reported that 10 Yemeni detainees from Guantánamo Bay arrived temporarily to Oman. The US Department of Defense later confirmed the move. Three days earlier, human rights experts from the UN and the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) jointly sent an open letter urging the US government to shut down the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay on its fourteenth anniversary. The letter mentioned the recent steps taken by the Obama administration to close the facility, but noted that many prisoners still remain at Guantánamo without trial outside the reach of US law. With this week's transfers, that number now stands at 93.
World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. This year, the stakes got much higher, with multiple foreign interventions in Syria and ISIS striking in Europe. On the night of Obama's 2016 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score: