Lawmakers Urge Biden to Keep Guantanamo Bay Prison Open After Afghanistan Pullout

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Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay
In this June 27, 2006, file photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Senate Republicans want to know what President Joe Biden plans to do with the controversial wartime prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the U.S. ends its war in Afghanistan.

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford and seven other Republicans sent a letter to Biden Tuesday urging him to maintain the prison and keep the remaining 40 prisoners locked up there.

"We anticipate your team is also developing a clear path forward to maintain GTMO operations, which are supported by a bipartisan congressional majority and most Americans," the lawmakers wrote. "While there were reasonable arguments for transferring and repatriating some low-risk detainees under your predecessors, we all agree that relocating the remaining 40 individuals or closing the facility would create an unnecessary risk."

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The letter comes after the Biden administration approved the release of three detainees who were never charged with a crime; all of them had been held for two decades.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Steve Daines of Montana and Thom Tillis of North Carolina also signed the letter.

The prison was opened by the George W. Bush administration in 2002 and held 680 detainees at its peak in 2003. Prisoners included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.

The Republican lawmakers said the remaining prisoners are too dangerous to relocate. An intelligence report found that 17% of former Guantanamo Bay detainees reengage in terrorist activities and routinely communicate with each other. Conversations range from the mundane to plotting attacks.

"We have also seen numerous examples of former detainees being released only to launch new attacks against Americans, resulting in the death of American service members," the lawmakers said. "There is no reason to take such unnecessary risks."

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: US Approves Release of Oldest Guantanamo Prisoner, Lawyer Says

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