The Obama administration is facing an utterly predictable dilemma of its own making.
Finally, belatedly, the administration has sent the Joint Special Operations Command to the Kurdish region of Iraq, which they can use as a base to kill and capture ISIS “high value targets” — something that I and others urged be done years ago. Delta Force, one of the JSOC “special mission units,” reportedly just snared just such a target. The question is: what are they going to do with him?
Presumably JSOC has set up a facility in the Kurdish Regional Government to interrogate such detainees and to extract as much information as possible from them. This is critical to build out an understanding of the ISIS network, which can be used to drive further raids. But what happens to the ISIS detainee after the immediate interrogations are over? Where does he go then?
This is precisely why the Bush administration created a detention facility at Guantanamo Bay — to serve as a humane facility where prisoners captured in the war on terror could be securely held. These are individuals who cannot be returned to the battlefield but who also cannot be tried in a civilian U.S. court. But, of course, President Obama is not sending any new detainees to Gitmo. He is intent on closing it down.
So what happens to ISIS detainees instead? They can be turned over, presumably, to Kurdish or Iraqi facilities. But how secure is such a solution? Recall that last May ISIS attacked an Iraqi prison northeast of Baghdad, freeing at least 50 inmates. Such prison breaks are all too common in Iraq, because of the deep-rooted corruption and incompetence of the government. There is no guarantee that anyone committed to Iraqi custody will stay there.
And, oh by the way, if the goal is humane treatment of prisoners — as the administration claims — there is also the disquieting fact that detainees are said to be routinely tortured in Iraqi hands and denied adequate living conditions. Gitmo is a model facility that is worlds better than anything in Iraq, or just about anywhere else in the world. And it is not even a rallying cry for terrorists, as President Obama likes to pretend.
This is why I wrote back in December that this is the worst possible time to close Gitmo — just as the battle against ISIS is ramping up. But the administration is proceeding full steam ahead with its Gitmo closure plans notwithstanding a congressional prohibition on transferring detainees to the American mainland. Yet another example of how the president puts ideology above sensible national security policies.