Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel quietly notified Congress last week that the military is set to transfer six Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Uruguay as soon as next month, The New York Times revealed Wednesday.
The deal has been waiting for Mr. Hagel’s approval since March, but stalled after the Obama administration received a wave of backlash for releasing five Taliban detainees to Qatar in exchange for the release Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Of the six low-level detainees expected to be released next month, four are Syrian, one is Palestinian and one is Tunisian. The transfer would bring the Gitmo population down to 143 prisoners — 72 of which are recommended for transfer, The Times reported.
“Although we will not discuss certain aspects of our communications with Congress, we continue to move forward in transferring Guantanamo detainees and will continue to comply with the law in notifying Congress 30 days in advance of any transfer,” said Lt. Col. Myles Caggins III, a Pentagon spokesman.
State Department spokesman Ian Moss told The Times: “The United States is grateful to our partner, Uruguay, for this significant humanitarian gesture, and appreciates the Uruguayan government’s generous assistance as the United States continues its efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo.”
“We remain very appreciative of the assistance of our friends and allies who have stepped up not just to receive their own nationals but also those countries who have accepted detainees for resettlement,” he said.