The Obama administration plans to transfer dozens of detainees from Guantanamo Bay over the next six months, with as many as five detainees being moved over the next few days, according to a U.S. official who spoke with CNN on condition of anonymity.
The plans are part of the White House’s efforts to reduce the population at the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba.
Several more transfers are expected in early 2015, CNN reported.
Currently there are 132 detainees being held at Guantanamo after the U.S. transferred four prisoners to Afghanistan last week.
President Obama alluded to the transfers during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” last week, saying, “I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it.”
“It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held,” Mr. Obama said. “It is contrary to our values and it is wildly expensive. We’re spending millions for each individual there. And we have drawn down the population there significantly.”
Sixty-four of the remaining 132 detainees have been deemed eligible for transfer, CNN reported.
Once a detainee is no longer considered a risk, he is either transferred back to his home country or a third country that is willing to take him in.
Fifty-four of the 64 eligible detainees are from Yemen, but the U.S. is not willing to send them back to Yemen due to concerns that the government will not be able to prevent them from joining al Qaeda.
The Yemeni government is allied with the U.S., but does not effectively control large parts of the country and even parts of its capital city, fighting both Iran-backed Shiite militias and the Sunni-dominated al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Another 20 detainees from Yemen are still considered too dangerous to move, as well as several detainees accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, CNN reported.
Nearly 800 detainees were held at Guantanamo under the George W. Bush administration, which claimed that since they weren’t being held on American soil, detainees could be considered “enemy combatants” and be denied some legal protections. Almost all the detainees were held without charges.
Mr. Obama pledged to shut down the facility as part of his 2008 presidential campaign and an order to begin doing so was one of the first things he did during his inauguration week.
But the move was vigorously opposed in Congress, which has since both forbidden the transfer of Guantanamo detainees here and barred money from going to building or acquiring any substitute detention facilities in the U.S.