WASHINGTON (AP) – The Pentagon said Saturday that four Afghans from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre have been returned to their home country in what US officials are citing as a sign of their confidence in new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Obama administration officials said they worked quickly to fulfill the request from Ghani, in office just three months, to return the four – long cleared for release – as a kind of reconciliation and mark of improved US-Afghan relations.
There is no requirement that the Afghan government further detain the men, identified as Mohammed Zahir, Shawali Khan, Abdul Ghani and Khi Ali Gul. Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a government-appointed group, confirmed the transfer, but did not identify the men, saying that the four “will be reunited soon with their families”.
The council also requested the repatriation of the eight Afghans who are among the 132 detainees remaining at the prison at the US Navy base in Cuba.
The US Embassy in Kabul, the Afghan capital, said in a statement that it had “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 transfer “demonstrates Afghan sovereignty and US trust in the strength of Afghan government institutions,” according to the statement.
The move is the latest in a series of transfers during the past two months.
President Barack Obama has been pushing to reduce the number of detainees as he tries to make progress toward his goal of closing the globally condemned detention centre at a US Navy base in Cuba for suspected terrorists.