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Pentagon Blocking Release of Guantanamo Prisoners Held Without Charge

© AP Photo / ANDRES LEIGHTONA detainee is escorted to interrogation by U.S. military guards at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay.
A detainee is escorted to interrogation by U.S. military guards at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay. - Sputnik International
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Despite the approval to have long time Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer transferred back to the UK, his release is being blocked by top Pentagon officials who are using him and other detainees as pawns to prevent the infamous detention facility from shutting down.

A protester holds up his chained arms during a protest against the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, in Parliament Square in London, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 - Sputnik International
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A permanent resident of the UK, Aamer was captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance in November 2001 while doing charity work in the region. Since then he has endured brutal torture at the notorious Bagram prison, only to be sent to Guantanamo Bay later in 2002, where he has remained until now, without charge.

During his thirteen-year detention, Aamer was cleared for release not once, but twice: once under the Bush administration, and a second time under Obama’s presidency. The Guantanamo detainee who has now become a cause célèbre in the UK, has gone through an arduous process requiring the unanimous approval of six agencies for his release.

The US Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence have all approved his transfer to the UK. In October 2013, US officials met with their bipartisan British counterparts and reached a deal to have Shaker transferred.

Despite all the agreements and approvals, Shaker remains locked up in Guantanamo.  

Mauritanian Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz and Saudi Abdul Shalabi, who have also been cleared for transfer back to their home countries, are similarly detained. So what’s the holdup?

According to a Guardian report, it’s the Pentagon.

A protester holds up a banner during a protest against the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, in Parliament Square in London - Sputnik International
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The agreement reached between US and UK officials on Aamer’s release requires a unanimous approval from senior officials, including those at the Pentagon.  Further, by law, the transfer requires the signature of US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, and so far, the Pentagon chief has been reluctant on signing his approval.

When it comes to the transfer of detainees, Carter, backed by top Pentagon officials, have played "foot-dragging and process" games, an anonymous official told the Guardian. Indeed, despite claims of wanting to see Aamer’s transfer through, Carter’s stalling reflects a masked disapproval.

Ultimately, for Pentagon officials, what this falls down to is the closure of the infamous facility. Joining Carter in the opposition are the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, and General John Kelly of the US southern command that oversees Guantanamo.

"The building doesn’t want to do it," the official told the Guardian, referring to the Pentagon.

Stalling transfers further reflects the internal fractures within the Obama administration as well as Congress in regards to closing down the facility. The White House has been accused of being ineffective and incoherent in shutting down Guantanamo, and the inability to transfer the detainees, which should be the simplest step given the granted approvals, is evidence of that failure.

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“Any month where we’re not seeing significant numbers of transfers undermines the president’s policy and is unfair to the individuals affected,” Clifford Sloan, the former state department envoy for closing Guantanamo said.

Meanwhile, Aamer and other detainees are to remain incarcerated until the Department of State says otherwise.

"If there is one thing that is worse than indefinite, arbitrary detention without trial," Clive Stafford Smith, one of Aamer’s US attorneys said, "it is indefinite, arbitrary detention without trial when 99% of the people on both sides think you should be released but one percent vetoes fairness secretly, without giving reasons, whether to Shaker or to the prime minister of Great Britain."

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