US officials are considering the controversial military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to house captured suspected Daesh fighters as Washington prepares to withdraw from Syria, according to a report, Anadolu Agency reports.
U.S. partners who have roughly 1,000 Daesh suspects in custody have warned they may not be able to continue to hold the detainees following the withdrawal.
The State Department told The Associated Press they could be transferred to Guantanamo “where lawful and appropriate.”
“The Administration’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism makes very clear that Law of Armed Conflict detention, including at Guantanamo, remains an important and effective counterterrorism tool,” the department told the AP on Thursday.
US President Donald Trump has taken a much different approach to the detention facility than his predecessor, Barack Obama, who worked to shutter the prison.
Obama was unable to do so amid fierce congressional pushback and security concerns, but was able to facilitate the transfer to third party countries of hundreds of detainees who were cleared by an interagency review. In all, 41 prisoners were at the site when Obama left office.
The US has drawn criticism for its use of the prison where inmates are held without charge, and where a well-documented history of torture has been chronicled, most notably by a Senate report whose executive summary was published in redacted form in 2014.
But Trump has repeatedly spoken positively of the facility, signing an executive order shortly after assuming office in 2017 to keep Guantanamo open after pledging on the campaign trail to “load it up with some bad dudes.”
Should the Trump administration send Daesh detainees to Guantanamo it would mark the first time the site has received new prisoners in more than a decade.
The US has repeatedly called on foreign governments to repatriate citizens suspected of fighting on behalf of Daesh, and has done so itself, returning a Texas man accused of fighting for Daesh to the state to stand trial.
Warren Clark, 34, like many of those who were apprehended, insists he never took up arms on behalf of the terror group.
There is still widespread opposition amongst most countries who the US has called on to repatriate their citizens, leaving thousands of suspects and their families in limbo.