Pentagon Ready to Send Home First Gitmo Prisoner Released Under Trump

This file photo shows a guard tower in abandoned Camp X-Ray at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This file photo shows a guard tower in abandoned Camp X-Ray at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

The first prisoner slated to leave the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility on President Donald Trump's watch will soon be released to the custody of Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said Thursday.

"We anticipate the transfer soon" of Ahmed al-Darbi, who pleaded guilty to war crimes four years ago before a military commission, said Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson.

White gave no timeline for the transfer. "I can't qualify 'soon' or 'relatively soon,' but it is our hope this will move forward soon," she said.

Al-Darbi, a Saudi national who reportedly has cooperated with interrogators since his guilty plea, was to be transferred to Saudi Arabia, where he was expected to serve out the remainder of his nine-year sentence.

He was slated to be released from Gitmo on Feb. 20, but White said at a Pentagon briefing that the transfer was temporarily held up for administrative reasons.

"This decision is not a unilateral decision," and involved the State and Justice Departments as well as the Saudis, she said.

Al-Dabri was one of six Gitmo prisoners who have been cleared for release among the 41 detainees still remaining at the naval base on Cuba's southeastern coast.

The prisoner population of Guantanamo topped 700 in the administration of former President George W. Bush and stood at 242 when President Barack Obama took office.

During the campaign and since he took office, Trump charged that many of those released from Gitmo by Obama returned to the battlefield, and he pledged to fill up the detention facility again with "bad dudes."

However, White said that "currently, there are no plans to move anyone to Guantanamo" from among the thousands of suspected Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters who were captured or surrendered in Syria to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has called on coalition allies to take custody of their nationals among those held by the SDF.

One of those who surrendered to the SDF was an as yet unidentified U.S. citizen who was taken into custody by the U.S. military and is believed to be held now in Iraq.

"This individual has had access to an attorney," White said, and added that the Defense Department was working with the Justice and State Departments to resolve questions of jurisdiction and due process.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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