We are getting more and more news stories about Yemen since the Christmas Day almost bomber. Today we have the big news of the US and the UK closing their embassies there. That follows closely on the visit yesterday of General Petraeus. This post from Politco’s John Gerswin’s “Under the Radar” was posted yesterday before that announcement and shows how totally confused our current administration is on the issue of Yemen.
A new (or old?) halt to Gitmo-Yemen transfers
“The senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive security matters, said the government was gaining confidence in Yemen’s willingness to handle returning detainees after months of ‘intense’ talks under the Obama administration, as well as counterterrorism assistance from the United States that dates back to the Bush years….[Sr. Official:] ‘That has given us greater confidence that the Yemeni government and president would deal with this issue very seriously.'”“A senior administration official said Thursday that Mr. Obama’s interagency team had already decided quietly several weeks ago that the security situation in Yemen was too volatile to transfer any more detainees beyond six who were sent home in December. The government concluded it had to release those six because it was about to lose habeas corpus hearings in court that would order them freed.As for the rest, ‘we all agreed we couldn’t send people back because of the security situation,’ said the official, who like others requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.The administration will re-examine the question in late 2010, when an Illinois prison is ready to take remaining Guantánamo detainees, the official said.”Hmmm. Is “quietly” a euphemism for “despite telling us more or less the opposite ten days ago”?The administration’s claim that it had, before the Christmas Day bombing attempt, put a halt to Yemen repatriations is also curious since the Washington Post suggested on its front page back on December 18 that the release of the six was a “prelude” to further releases. Shouldn’t the White House have leapt up and said, “Actually, no, it isn’t?”And when various members of Congress said we shouldn’t send any more detainees to Yemen in the foreseeable future (see here, here, here and here), shouldn’t the White House have leapt up and said, “We agree. Never planned to”?It’s also curious that the fact that no more detainees would be sent to Yemen was being touted to reporters as a finding or result of the post-Christmas bombing intelligence review, if indeed such repatriations were halted “quietly several weeks ago.”On the other hand, in the pre-Xmas bombing environment, being candid about a decision not to send more prisoners to Yemen, would have 1) been offensive to the Yemeni government and 2) underscored the instability of the country to which we just sent six former Gitmo prisoners. So the earlier reticence was understandable even if the spin seems a bit whiplash-inducing in retrospect.Posted by Josh Gerstein 04:55 PM