Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Hundreds of ISIS fighters could end up in Guantanamo Bay
Holding Islamic State suspects at Guantanamo is still a viable option, Trump administration officials say on the heels of a U.S. appeal to other nations to take home their nationals who are among 700 suspected foreign fighters held by a U.S. ally militia in Syria.
The remarks came two weeks after GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida wrote President Donald Trump that the U.S. allied Syrian Democratic Forces were holding more than 700 "battle-hardened terrorists in northeast Syria." They urged the president to "consider transferring the worst of these Islamic State fighters to the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, where they will face justice."
It is not clear what might constitute "justice" for these fighters. Most of the 40 detainees now held at Guantanamo are essentially forever prisoners of the so-called War on Terror. Just nine have been charged with war crimes and the rest are detained without criminal charge or trial.
On Monday, deputy State Department spokesman Robert Palladino issued a statement declaring the need for nations to repatriate and prosecute SDF-held foreign captives a "shared international security challenge." The United States has dubbed the ISIS captives FTFs, for "foreign terrorist fighters." He pointedly omitted mention of Guantanamo.
At the Pentagon, Navy Cmdr. Candice Tresch, spokeswoman for Detainee Policy, said Guantanamo detention remains an alternative to repatriation of captives now held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mostly Kurdish U.S. ally. It's U.S. government policy "to encourage countries of citizenship to take responsibility for their FTFs through prosecution, rehabilitation programs, or other measures that sufficiently prevent detainees from re-engaging in terrorism," Tresch said.
For those who can't go home, she said, "President Trump has made clear that GTMO is one of the options that may be considered if appropriate."
A State Department statement doubled down on the Department of Defense remark. "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."
However, neither the Pentagon's Detainee Affairs division nor the State Department's Counterterror bureau would say whether the Trump administration had obtained a legal opinion on the authority of the United States to hold or try ISIS prisoners at Guantanamo Bay using Congress' 2009 Military Commissions Act.
Nor would they say how many of the 700 prisoners that Palladino said the administration wants repatriated would be candidates for Guantanamo detention.
The prison that opened in January 2002 has only held al-Qaida and Taliban suspects and the military commissions created by Congress, before the emergence of ISIS, are limited to non-U.S. citizens who are accused of being part of al-Qaida. No new captive has been sent there since March 2008.
This week's appeal by the State Department to help relieve the SDF of its detainees is not new.
Last February, then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis made similar requests of U.S. allies at a meeting in Rome of ministers of defense on how to defeat ISIS. "We're gathering up hundreds now of detainees," he told reporters. "My view is that the country of origin that they were citizens of bears some sense of responsibility."
Mattis cast it as "an international problem," declaring it would not be in anybody's interest to free foreign fighters, specifically noting they should not be on the streets in Afghanistan, Belgium, France, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. He was essentially calling out those nations to accept repatriation of their ISIS-suspect citizens. In that Feb. 13, 2018, briefing Mattis pointedly declined to say whether sending the captives to Guantanamo might be a solution.
This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
©2019 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
WATCH NEXT: The Guy Who Reportedly Sent His Resume To ISIS
Trump: $6.1 billion in DoD money going to border wall wasn’t for anything that seemed ‘too important to me’
President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."
Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."
Eleven Russian bombers in early 2018 flew a mock attack on a Norwegian radar site, Lt. Gen. Morten Haga Lunde, the director of Norway's intelligence service, revealed in early February 2019.
D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.
"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."
MUSCAT/KABUL (Reuters) - Even before any peace push-related drawdowns, the U.S. military is expected to trim troop levels in Afghanistan as part of an efficiency drive by the new commander, a U.S. general told Reuters on Friday, estimating the cuts may exceed 1,000 forces.