Obama says can close Guantanamo jail while keeping Americans safe

Obama says can close Guantanamo jail while keeping Americans safe

MANILA – Reuters
Obama says can close Guantanamo jail while keeping Americans safe

In this March 30, 2010, file photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, a U.S. trooper stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. AP Photo

United States President Barack Obama vowed on Nov. 19 to press ahead with the release of his plan on how he hopes to close the Guantanamo military prison but said last week’s Paris attacks would stoke further congressional resistance to his efforts. 

Obama drew a link between a bid by Republicans to block the inflow of Syrian refugees to the U.S., based on concerns they could ignite Paris-style violence in American cities, and their opposition to the closing of the Guantanamo detention center at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba. 

While attending an Asia-Pacific summit in Manila, he spoke amid fresh delays in his administration’s submission to Congress of a plan aimed at meeting his long-standing pledge to shut the internationally condemned prison for foreign terrorism suspects. 

“We can keep the American people safe while shutting down that operation,” Obama told reporters at a joint appearance before reporters with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Obama predicted that the prison’s population would be reduced to fewer than a hundred by early next year, an important symbolic milestone. The number has been whittled down to 107 prisoners, mostly through repatriations and transfers to third countries. 

The Pentagon had been expected to unveil Obama’s Guantanamo closure plan last week, before his departure for summits in Turkey and Southeast Asia, U.S. officials said. But that was held up without explanation, and Obama did not specify any new timeline. 

He reiterated his view that Guantanamo has been “an enormous recruitment tool” for groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq. 

“We are going to go through meticulously, with Congress, what our options are and why we think this should be closed,” Obama said. 

“I guarantee you there will be strong resistance, because in the aftermath of Paris, I think that there is just a very strong tendency for us to get worked up around issues that don’t actually make us safer.”