World Bulletin / News Desk
The Pentagon is blocking the return of UK permanent resident Shaker Aamer and two other longterm Guantánamo Bay detainees for whom the US Department of State has completed diplomatic deals to transfer home, according to a report in the Guardian.
US and UK diplomats reached an agreement in late 2013 for the return of Aamer, who has spent more than 13 years at the detention facility without charge, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the understanding.
Pentagon chief Ashton Carter, backed by powerful US military officers, has withheld support for sending Aamer back to the UK. The ongoing block has left current and former US officials who consider the detainees as little threat seething, as they see it undermining relations with Britain and other foreign partners while subverting from the inside Obama’s long-stifled goal of closing the infamous detention facility.
Two of the men being kept at Guantánamo were cleared by a 2010 government review, in which the Pentagon participated, after they found them to pose little threat to US or allied national security. Aamer is among them.
Administration officials said the Pentagon has never formally opposed the transfers, an act of outright resistance to a high-profile presidential commitment that risks retaliation. The transfers have the backing of the US Justice Department, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
But since White House rules depend on full administration consensus, Aamer remains at Guantánamo until Carter and the Pentagon say otherwise.
US officials said they reached a deal with their British counterparts on transferring Aamer at a meeting in Washington in October 2013, subject to final approval from senior officials. The Pentagon has been the holdout.
The other two detainees are the Mauritanian Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz and the Saudi Abdul Shalabi. The state department has deals in place with the three detainees’ home countries that still await Carter’s signature. US diplomats reached an agreement to transfer Abdel Aziz in fall 2013; Shalabi was cleared on 15 June by a quasi-parole hearing called a Periodic Review Board.
A spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office said the Aamer case “remains a high priority for the UK government” and said that theyd had reiterated to the US that they wanted him "released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency,” said the spokeswoman.
Henrietta Levin, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Defense, said she did not have a timetable for when detainees can be released from Guantánamo.
“However,” she said in a statement, “the Defense Department is committed to reducing the detainee population and to closing the detention facility. We recognize the importance that our British allies have placed on resolving the Shaker Aamer case, and accordingly, we have made this case a priority.”