Washington (MEE) – A top US military official said on Thursday that the prison at Guantanamo Bay is “prepared” to take new detainees, but has not yet received the order to do so.
The prison, which was opened by former President George W Bush to hold terrorism suspects captured overseas after the 11 September 2001 attacks, has come to symbolize harsh detention practices that opened the United States to accusations of torture.
His successor Barack Obama ended the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” via executive order in January 2009, and reduced the inmate population to 41, but fell short of fulfilling his promise to close the jail.
President Donald Trump last month signed an executive order reversing Obama’s ultimately fruitless 2009 directive to shutter the prison.
“We have 41 detainees who are there right now. We are prepared to receive more should they be directed to us,” Admiral Kurt Tidd, who oversees the military’s Southern Command that includes Guantanamo, told lawmakers.
“As of today we have not been given a warning order that new detainees might be heading in our direction, but our responsibility will be to integrate them in effectively.”
US military officials have been openly discussing the fate of Islamic State (IS) group detainees, mainly foreign fighters, held by US-backed militias in northern Syria.
Guantanamo has not received any new inmates since 2008 but on the campaign trail, Trump vowed to load the facility with “bad dudes,” and said it would be “fine” if US terror suspects were sent there for trial.
During his State of the Union speech in January, Trump said IS captives would in “many cases” end up in Guantanamo.
This post was originally written for and published by Middle East Eye.