Some have speculated why Sec. of Defense Hagel is no longer in his office. The issue of prisoner releases (who, why, where and when) and the open disagreement with the President regarding the threat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria clearly appear two of the biggest reasons he is gone.
WASHINGTON — The United States transferred six detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison to Uruguay this weekend, the Defense Department announced early Sunday. It was the largest single group of inmates to depart the wartime prison in Cuba since 2009, and the first to be resettled in South America.
The transfer included a Syrian man who has been on a prolonged hunger strike to protest his indefinite detention without trial, and who has brought a high-profile lawsuit to challenge the military’s procedures for force-feeding him. His release may make most of that case moot, although a dispute over whether videotapes of the procedure must be disclosed to the public is expected to continue
The transfer was also notable because the deal has been publicly known since it was finalized last spring. Significantly, however, delays by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in signing off on the arrangement placed it in jeopardy. Mr. Hagel’s slow pace this year in approving proposed transfers of low-level detainees contributed to larger tensions with the White House before his resignation under pressure last month.
Under transfer restrictions enacted by Congress, the secretary of defense must tell lawmakers at least 30 days before any transfer that the secretary has determined it would be safe to release a detainee. Mr. Hagel approved a flurry of transfers in late 2013, but in 2014 the process ground to a halt as he did not move on the Uruguay deal, nor on a proposal to repatriate four low-level Afghans and make other arrangements in the pipeline.
His reluctance to approve these agreements contributed to a deterioration in his relations with the White House. In May, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, sent Mr. Hagel a memo pressuring him to pick up the pace, and Mr. Hagel, in an interview, explained that he was in no hurry to approve deals.
“My name is going on that document; that’s a big responsibility,” Mr. Hagel said at the time, adding: “What I’m doing is, I am taking my time. I owe that to the American people, to ensure that any decision I make is, in my mind, responsible.”
There may also be a similar pattern of a release of many prisoners from the Afghan war.
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As Reuters notes, Latif’s release is part of the US military’s mad scramble to empty Bagram prison of all third country nationals in its custody. The US did the same thing before withdrawing from Iraq, with devastating consequences. Top jihadist leaders, including senior Hezbollah military leader Musa Ali Daqduq and Asaib al Haq emir Qais Qazali, were handed over to Iraqi custody and subsequently freed.