President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Five years later, the prison for terrorism suspects remains open, with 136 detainees (as of December 2014). Click through for a look inside the <a href='http://ift.tt/1jxw8b8'>controversial facility</a>. Here, President George W. Bush's official picture is replaced by Obama's in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo on January 20, 2009, the day the latter was sworn in as president.President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Five years later, the prison for terrorism suspects remains open, with 136 detainees (as of December 2014). Click through for a look inside the controversial facility. Here, President George W. Bush's official picture is replaced by Obama's in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo on January 20, 2009, the day the latter was sworn in as president.

The U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay has held <a href='http://ift.tt/1jxw9vC'>terror suspects since January 2002</a>. Early in the war on terror, the Bush administration argued these detainees were "enemy combatants" who didn't have the protections accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. Here, a detainee stands at an interior fence at Guantanamo Bay in October 2009.The U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay has held terror suspects since January 2002. Early in the war on terror, the Bush administration argued these detainees were "enemy combatants" who didn't have the protections accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. Here, a detainee stands at an interior fence at Guantanamo Bay in October 2009.

A Navy sailor surveys the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in October 2009. In December 2013, Congress <a href='http://ift.tt/1eH6jTj' target='_blank'>passed a defense spending bill</a> that makes it easier to transfer detainees out of the facility.A Navy sailor surveys the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in October 2009. In December 2013, Congress passed a defense spending bill that makes it easier to transfer detainees out of the facility.

U.S. military guards move a detainee inside the detention center in September 2010. At its peak, the detainee population exceeded 750 men at Guantanamo.U.S. military guards move a detainee inside the detention center in September 2010. At its peak, the detainee population exceeded 750 men at Guantanamo.

A military doctor holds a feeding tube used to feed detainees on a hunger strike at a Camp Delta hospital at Guantanamo in June 2013. In March 2013, the U.S. military announced that dozens of detainees had begun a hunger strike. By that June, <a href='http://ift.tt/1jxw8rB'>more than 100 detainees were on a hunger strike</a>, and more than 40 were being force-fed, military officials said.A military doctor holds a feeding tube used to feed detainees on a hunger strike at a Camp Delta hospital at Guantanamo in June 2013. In March 2013, the U.S. military announced that dozens of detainees had begun a hunger strike. By that June, more than 100 detainees were on a hunger strike, and more than 40 were being force-fed, military officials said.

Muslim detainees kneel during early morning prayers in October 2009. Cells are marked with an arrow pointing in the direction of Mecca, regarded as Islam's holy city.Muslim detainees kneel during early morning prayers in October 2009. Cells are marked with an arrow pointing in the direction of Mecca, regarded as Islam's holy city.

A soldier stands near a placard on the fence line of the detention facility in January 2012. A soldier stands near a placard on the fence line of the detention facility in January 2012.

A Quran sits among a display of items isssued to detainees in September 2010. The suspects are given a prayer mat and a copy of the Muslim holy book as well as a toothbrush, soap, shampoo and clothing.A Quran sits among a display of items isssued to detainees in September 2010. The suspects are given a prayer mat and a copy of the Muslim holy book as well as a toothbrush, soap, shampoo and clothing.

A U.S. military guard walks out of the maximum security section of the detention center in September 2010.A U.S. military guard walks out of the maximum security section of the detention center in September 2010.

A German shepherd police dog undergoes training exercises in October 2009 at Guantanamo Bay. A German shepherd police dog undergoes training exercises in October 2009 at Guantanamo Bay.

A camp librarian views artwork painted by detainees in September 2010. A camp librarian views artwork painted by detainees in September 2010.

A detainee rubs his face while attending a "life skills" class inside the Camp 6 high-security detention facility in April 2009. A detainee rubs his face while attending a "life skills" class inside the Camp 6 high-security detention facility in April 2009.

A seat and shackle await a detainee in the DVD room of the maximum security Camp 5 detention center in March 2010. A seat and shackle await a detainee in the DVD room of the maximum security Camp 5 detention center in March 2010.

U.S. Marines join in martial arts training at the U.S. naval base in September 2010. U.S. Marines join in martial arts training at the U.S. naval base in September 2010.

Members of the military walk the hallway of Cell Block C in the Camp 5 detention facility in January 2012. Members of the military walk the hallway of Cell Block C in the Camp 5 detention facility in January 2012.

Guards move a detainee from his cell in Cell Block A of the Camp 6 detention facility in January 2012. Guards move a detainee from his cell in Cell Block A of the Camp 6 detention facility in January 2012.

A detainee waits for lunch in September 2010. The cost of building Guantanamo's high-security detention facilities was reportedly about $54 million.A detainee waits for lunch in September 2010. The cost of building Guantanamo's high-security detention facilities was reportedly about $54 million.

Marines get an early-morning workout at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in October 2009. Marines get an early-morning workout at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in October 2009.

A bus carries military guards from their night shift at the detention center in September 2010.A bus carries military guards from their night shift at the detention center in September 2010.

A military guard puts on gloves before moving a detainee within the detention center in September 2010.A military guard puts on gloves before moving a detainee within the detention center in September 2010.

Members of the U.S. Navy move down the hallway of Cell Block C in the Camp 5 detention facility in January 2012.Members of the U.S. Navy move down the hallway of Cell Block C in the Camp 5 detention facility in January 2012.

A U.S. military guard holds shackles before preparing to move a detainee in September 2010.A U.S. military guard holds shackles before preparing to move a detainee in September 2010.

An American flag flies over Camp 6 at Guantanamo in June 2013.An American flag flies over Camp 6 at Guantanamo in June 2013.








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  • Spokesman: A U.S. Air Force C-17 flew the ex-detainees to Afghanistan

  • Repatriation part of U.S. "commitment to close" Gitmo, U.S. envoy says

  • Afghanistan will help "reintegrate these former detainees," U.S. embassy says

  • Guantanamo Bay has held nearly 800 detainees; there are now 132




(CNN) -- The U.S. government continues to shrink its ranks of Guantanamo Bay detainees, announcing Saturday that four more have been repatriated -- this time to Afghanistan.


The Defense Department identified them as Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir. The U.S. Air Force C-17 carrying them arrived in Afghanistan around 6 a.m. Saturday (10 p.m. ET Friday), Pentagon spokesman Lt. Colonel Myles Caggins told CNN.


An administration official told CNN the four detainees are not expected to face further detainment in Afghanistan.


In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul expressed appreciation to the Afghan government -- which, since September, has been led by President Ashraf Ghani -- "for helping to reintegrate these former detainees."


"We have full confidence in the Afghan government's ability to mitigate any threats these individuals may pose and to ensure that they are given humane treatment," the embassy said.


The move was also made to further President Barack Obama's goal of drawing down the number of those held at the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba, something that has been ongoing for years.


"This repatriation reflects the Defense Department's continued commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo in a responsible manner," said Paul Lewis, the Pentagon's special envoy for the closure of Guantanamo.


132 now being held at Guantanamo


The departures of these four Afghan men means that, as of Saturday, 132 people are still detained at Guantanamo.





Former Guantanamo detainee on torture




McCain offers hope that Gitmo could be closed




Six guantamos detainees released

This is down significantly from the numbers soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the facility widely known as Gitmo was repurposed to hold detainees from the "war on terror."


The administration of then-President George W. Bush claimed that, since Gitmo detainees weren't held on American soil, they could be considered "enemy combatants" and be denied some legal protections. Almost all of the nearly 800 detainees were held without charges.


Senate torture report restarts fight on terror policy


This legal limbo, as well as allegations of torture and other mistreatment, spurred criticism of Gitmo. Shortly after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the detention facility within a year.


Some worry ex-detainees will engage in terrorism


That didn't happen.


One reason was because of strong opposition from lawmakers, many of them Republicans, who cited the risk of freeing men who had fought to kill Americans.


About 17% of the 620 Gitmo detainees released -- most of them during Bush's presidency -- went on to engage in terrorist activities, a September semiannual report from the director of national intelligence found. Another 12% are suspected of having engaged in terrorist or insurgent activities.


Still, the number of detainees has steadily gone down, including six transferred to the government of Uruguay earlier this month. Four of these were Syrians, one was Tunisian and the sixth was Palestinian, according to Rear Adm. John Kirby, press secretary for the Pentagon.


Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said on his website December 5, "We have offered our hospitality for humans suffering a heinous kidnapping in Guantanamo(.) The unavoidable reason is humanitarian."


U.S. transfers 6 Gitmo detainees to Uruguay


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said this and other releases by Obama's administration are dangerous, claiming many nations that receive former detainees aren't up for the job and that these countries don't stop them from rejoining the fight.


"We knew that was going to happen," Rogers told CNN. "That's why those of us who were trying to do the review of this were so concerned, because they were so interested in getting them out, that they forgot to do the due diligence -- I think -- that would allow them to at least protect those that were going to go back into the fight, from getting back into the fight."


Embassy: Transfer shows U.S. supports reconciliation


While they came from many countries, many Guantanamo detainees were captured during the U.S.-led military fight against al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan. It's been rare for them to be sent back there, especially given some diplomatic discord and concerns about the country's security situation.


The American military's future in Afghanistan had been uncertain, too, amid contentious talks involving former President Hamid Karzai. The countries signed a security agreement soon after Ashraf Ghani took office. While the U.S. military won't participate in combat operations in Afghanistan, some U.S. troops will remain there into 2015 and beyond as part of the deal.


The U.S. Embassy in Kabul expressed hope that the latest transfer can mark "a step forward in strengthening relations between the two countries and can provide an opportunity for greater confidence among Afghans to engage in political dialogue to end the violence in their country. "


The statement backed an "Afghan-led reconciliation" that includes "all opposition groups, including the Taliban."


"As part of the outcome of any reconciliation process, the Taliban and other armed groups must end violence, break ties with (al Qaeda) and accept Afghanistan's constitution, including its protections for women and minorities," the embassy said. "This transfer demonstrates U.S. support for such a reconciliation process."


CNN's Jonathan Berryman, Masoud Popalzai and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.



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