WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The State Department envoy responsible for negotiating prisoner transfers from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is resigning, officials said on Monday, even as President Barack Obama is promising a stepped-up push to close the facility.
The surprise announcement of Clifford Sloan’s departure followed a flurry of detainee repatriations and resettlements, though officials at the State Department and White House had made clear their frustration with the slow handling of such moves by outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Sloan assumed the post in July 2013 and the State Department said he was stepping down and returning to his Washington law practice after finishing an 18-month commitment.
A senior US official said another factor in Sloan’s decision was that the Pentagon “certainly hasn’t been as helpful as they could have been” in speeding up the process of sending prisoners home or resettling them in other countries.
Still, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Sloan’s “skillful negotiating” led to the transfer of 34 detainees and “with more on the way”.
With the detainee population whittled down to 132, several more are expected to be transferred by year-end and that figure could reach low “double digits” as further moves involving “various nationalities” take place in following weeks, the senior official said.
Sloan’s resignation, which takes effect Dec 31, is not likely to affect transfers already in the pipeline, but it remains to be seen what kind of impact it will have beyond that.