Detroit Terror Attempt Impacts Gitmo Plans
Politico‘s Josh Gernstein notes that revelations of Yemen’s connection to the failed Detroit terror plot will further complicate President Obama’s plans to move prisoners from the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
“I’d expect Yemen’s handling of returned Guantanamo detainees to come under intense U.S. scrutiny,” said Matthew Waxman, a Columbia law professor who was an assistant Defense secretary for detainee affairs under President George W. Bush. “In the past, the Yemeni government has not shown great capacity or reliability, but the U.S. hopes to build a stronger partnership and improve that record, in part because it has few other options in this important region.”
The White House had no comment on how Abdulmutallab’s history might impact future prisoner releases or official dealings with Yemen. However, U.S. officials have worked intensely in recent months to support the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and to obtain assurances that Yemenis returned home would not take part in violence.
On the same day Abdulmutallab allegedly boarded a flight in Nigeria bound for Amsterdam and then Detroit, Yemeni fighter planes attacked an alleged Al Qaeda compound in southern Yemen. According to the Yemeni government, one apparent target of the strike was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American cleric who reportedly had links to the U.S. Army officer who allegedly killed 13 people in a shooting spree at a Texas base last month, Maj. Malik Hasan. It is unclear whether Al-Awlaki was killed in the strike.
In September, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, visited Yemen to press for greater action against Al Qaeda and discuss logistical issues surrounding prisoner releases. And earlier this month, Obama telephoned Saleh to praise him for recent raids against Al Qaeda and for the nation’s overall cooperation with the U.S. in counterterrorism efforts, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.
While the White House maintains that it is pressing Yemen on both the Al Qaeda and prisoner issues, Hoekstra said the issue of emptying out Guantanamo seems to have priority. “The president appears single-mindely focused on closing Guantanamo. He spends more time and energy on closing Guantanamo than on any of the other issues,” said the Michigan Republican.
One expert on Yemen said the danger it poses to the U.S. has the potential to grow, regardless of whether Guantanamo prisoners are sent there. “While people say it’s a haven for Al Qaeda, they do not have the kind of cover they had in Afghanistan. The Yemeni military doesn’t like them,” said Charles Schmitz, a geography professor at Towson University in Maryland. “You have a government that’s kind of teetering — That doesn’t have a whole lot of legitimacy….There’s civil disobedience in the south and the Army is basically losing a war in the north. You do have places where they could set up and basically hatch their little plans.”
If not Yemen, it’d be somewhere else. Most of the 192 member-states of the United Nations are underdeveloped and run by fragile governments. And the weak states are disproportionately sympathetic to Islamists.
My guess is that we’ll just ship more of these people to Gitmo East in Illinois rather than deporting them to their home countries, where some number will inevitably head straight for the nearest al Qaeda training facility. Why indefinite detention there solves any of the objections to doing so at Gitmo is unclear, aside from not having the stigma that’s come to be associated with the name.