The United States announced the transfer of a detainee from Guantánamo Bay, the first of this type of repatriation to occur during the Biden administration, as well as a signal of its intent to resume the effort to empty and close the notorious U.S. facility. The move also comes as the U.S. has begun withdrawing military troops from Afghanistan, just as the war in that nation is approaching its 20th year.
“The Biden administration remains dedicated to a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantánamo facility,” a Pentagon official told reporters on Monday. In February, the White House committed to shutting down the prison by the end of Biden’s first term.
The repatriated detainee, Abdul Latif Nasser, is a 56-year-old Moroccan man who has been held at the camp since 2002 without officially being charged with a crime. He was approved for release in July 2016, but Donald Trump halted such transfers during his time as president, leaving five detainees who had been approved, including Nasser, in limbo.
With Nasser released to the Moroccan government, 39 prisoners remain at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Eleven have been charged with war crimes, while 28 have yet to be charged with anything.
“The United States commends the Kingdom of Morocco for its long-time partnership in securing both countries’ national security interests,” the Defense Department said in a statement.
One of President Obama’s first official acts after taking office in 2009 was to sign an executive order calling for the closure of Guantánamo. Republicans in Congress opposed and repeatedly worked to block the plan, and the administration was not able to finish transferring all the detainees housed at the facility by the time Obama left office.