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The United States was resettling Guantanamo prisoners. The Hamas attack put an end to these plans.

The United States was resettling Guantanamo prisoners.  The Hamas attack put an end to these plans.


The Biden administration was set to send a dozen Guantnamo Bay detainees to Oman for resettlement last year, but it abruptly halted the secret operation as Congress questioned security in the Middle East. -East after Hamas attack on Israel, according to administration officials.

None of the prisoners were ever charged with crimes, and all were allowed to be transferred by national security review boards.

A military cargo plane was already on the runway at Guantnamo Bay, ready to transport the group of Yemeni prisoners to Oman when the trip was canceled, sources close to the military operation said.

What belongings they could take with them had been collected, signaling to the prisoners that they would soon be leaving. Then the plane flew away empty and their belongings were returned.

The details of these operations are confidential for the safety of the American military crews transporting the men. But U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the detainee movements are considered secret until completed, acknowledged the mission's failure after NBC published an account of it Monday.

The delayed transfer illustrates the Biden administration's ongoing struggle to find countries willing to resettle and monitor the 16 cleared detainees, who are among 30 men held at Guantnamo. Such agreements require diplomacy, intelligence community participation, and advance notice to Congress.

The United States has long considered Oman a loyal and powerful ally, a peaceful nation 1,500 miles and a landmass away from Gaza. Oman prides itself on being a neutral intermediary between conflicting regional powers.

On Monday evening, White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called Oman a trusted partner that works closely with the United States on a range of priorities, including the rehabilitation of Guantnamo detainees.

U.S. diplomatic and national security officials reached a deal with Oman to send the prisoners there last year. But the plan ran into opposition during a closed-door congressional briefing in October, virtually on the eve of the transfer. Democrats have raised concerns with State Department and intelligence officials about the potential for instability in the Middle East following Hamas' attack on Israel, administration officials say , who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive mission. .

The administration agreed to postpone the transfer and review the arrangements, a process that two government officials said was continuing Monday. Department of Defense policy only allows the release of a new transfer date after the prisoners have departed.

Guantnamo prisoners awaiting transfer come from countries considered too unstable or dangerous to repatriate, including Yemen, forcing the United States to seek help from its allies and partners to welcome them for rehabilitation. or resettlement.

During the detention center's two-decade history in Cuba, approximately 750 detainees have been transferred through repatriation or resettlement, many as part of covert military operations. A few have been sidelined or delayed due to diplomatic issues, a change in leadership in the host country, or U.S. military operational concerns.

In late 2014, for example, a military cargo plane carrying five detainees to Central Asia that had left Guantnamo as part of a long-planned transfer turned around due to an in-flight mechanical problem. The Pentagon delayed public disclosure of what it considered a sensitive national security operation until a new C-17 cargo plane and its crew were sent to the base to pick up prisoners and a guard force special and take them to Kazakhstan.

Oman's rehabilitation program received 30 detainees between 2015 and 2017. Most came from Yemen, which shares a border with Oman. Many of them married there and now have children there, although it is not known whether they have managed to integrate into society.

Two of the men sent to Oman were Afghan citizens who were repatriated earlier this year, according to the Taliban, after seven years of house arrest.

Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesman, said at the time that the two men were repatriated because the security conditions negotiated between the United States and Oman at the time of their transfer in 2017 had expired.

Ms Watson said Oman, through its rehabilitation program, continues to uphold its humane treatment and security guarantees for detainees sent there in recent years, in some cases for much longer than expected.

Given the strength of the Omani agenda, we will continue to cooperate closely with Omani officials on these issues, she added.

Lawyers for the freed prisoners declined to comment on the aborted transfer, or to discuss the mood at Guantnamos' minimum-security Camp 6, where men approved for release are separated from so-called high-value detainees.

The Biden administration's efforts to reduce the prison population are part of a renewal of President Barack Obama's failed pledge to end the operation. But this effort has revived some criticism and opposition from the Obama years.

Congress does not have the power to stop the transfer to Oman. However, by law, he receives confidential notification of each pending transfer at least 30 days in advance, giving him time to raise objections.

The legislation blocked transfers of Guantnamo detainees to the United States for any reason.

Besides Yemen, transfers to Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Syria have also long been banned because these countries are considered too politically unstable or violent for safe repatriation.

Congress added Afghanistan to the list after the administration repatriated a former Afghan militiaman in 2022, with help from Qatar. A federal court ruled that the prisoner was illegally detained and ordered his release.




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