- Hundreds of Gitmo prisoners have been released during Obama’s two terms in office, and it has now been confirmed that many of them have returned to the battlefield
- Some of them have joined forces with ISIS in Syria
- Other also indicates that other former detainees are currently assisting these groups from outside Syria
By Charles Greene
One of the first promises Barack Obama made after being inaugurated in 2009 was that he would close the facility at Guantanamo Bay which housed hundreds of detainees suspected of waging terrorism against the United States.
Seven years later, that still hasn’t happened. However, hundreds of these prisoners have been released during Obama’s two terms in office, and it has now been confirmed that many of them have returned to the battlefield – with some of them joining forces with ISIS in Syria.
Fox News recently broke the story, reporting that there are those within the intelligence community and the Department of Defense who believe that as many as 30 former Guantanamo Bay detainees have begun fighting alongside ISIS members and other terrorist groups operating in Syria:
The intelligence offers a mixed picture, and officials say the figures are not exact. But they are certain at least some of the released detainees are fighting with the Islamic State, or ISIS, on the ground inside Syria. Others are believed to be supporting Al Qaeda or the affiliated al-Nusra Front in Syria.
The intelligence also indicates that other former detainees are currently assisting these groups from outside Syria, providing financial support and spreading propaganda.
Although officials say that the majority of the 620 detainees released from Guantanamo have not returned to the battlefield, more than one quarter of them have – around 180 are suspected of having resumed their terrorist activities:
“Of those 180, sources say 20 to 30 have either joined ISIS or other militants groups in Syria, or are participating with these groups from outside countries. Officials say most of those 20 to 30 are operating inside Syria.”
Even high-ranking former officials admit that they have known all along that a significant number of those released would again become involved in the fight against the West. James Jeffrey, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told Fox News:
“The majority have remained there, but there was always, if you will, a certain seepage. These people are ideologically and essentially religiously committed to their evil cause, and it is very hard to sort out who are going to stay at home and who are going to return to the battlefield.”
Most of the former detainees who choose to resume their jihadist activities do so in the countries where they originally came from. However, the 20 to 30 who have joined forces with ISIS and other groups fighting in Syria have migrated from Europe and Africa.
In June, The Wall Street Journal reported on three Moroccan Taliban leaders who, after being released from Guantanamo Bay ten years ago, ended up in Syria as leaders of Harakat Sham al Islam, one of the violent military groups involved in the country’s bloody civil war:
“The Moroccans, who once trained at the same Afghan camp where the Sept. 11 hijackers trained, set up their radical militant group in Syria in August 2013. Like other al Qaeda sympathizers, they saw their battle as a jihad, or holy war, to replace the Syrian state with an Islamic emirate ruled by their strict interpretation of religious law.”
Having failed to learn from that lesson, Obama released five more senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo earlier this year as part of the swap for the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl:
“Like the three Moroccans, the five Afghans went free with a friendly government’s consent to monitor them. As part of the deal that released U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Qatari government agreed to keep the five ex-detainees in the Gulf emirate for at least a year to prevent them from returning to violence.”
President Obama doesn’t seem all that concerned about the likelihood that freed Guantanamo Bay detainees will return to their jihadist missions. In an April, 2013 press conference, the president was quoted as saying:
“I think, well, you know, I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe.”
Others would beg to differ. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) recently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urging him to suspend all transfers of terrorist detainees from Guantanamo:
“I am writing to express my grave concerns regarding the Administration’s efforts to continue to transfer Guantanamo detainees despite unprecedented threats to our national security…
“The re-engagement rate of former Guantanamo detainees is ever-increasing and there are public reports that detainees are specifically rejoining the fight alongside ISIL.
The U.S. Government must not release terrorist detainees at the same time we have committed U.S. service members to fight ISIL.”
Chairman McKeon is right. As long as the threat remains, these terrorists should remain exactly where there are – under lock and key.
Does it surprise you that many of these former radical Islamic terrorist prisoners are returning to duty in the Middle East? Shouldn’t President Obama be holding onto these prisoners instead of letting them go? What policy would YOU recommend? INFORM US!