July 20 (UPI) — The Biden administration announced early Monday that it has transferred its first prisoner from the Guantanamo Bay facility, leaving 39 remaining at the controversial detention center located in Cuba.
The Pentagon said in a release that it has transferred Abdul Latif Nasir, 56, from Guantanamo Bay to Morocco after the Periodic Review Board determined in 2016 that he “no longer remained necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States.”
The board had authorized Nasir to be repatriated back to Morocco but the steps necessary to facilitate his return “were unable to be completed prior to the end of the Obama administration,” the Department of Defense said.
“The United States commends the Kingdom of Morocco for its long-time partnership in securing both countries’ national security interests,” the Pentagon said. “The United States is also extremely grateful for the Kingdom’s willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.”
With Nasir’s transfer, there are only 39 prisoners remaining at the site, of which 10 have been recommended for transfer.
A senior administration official told reporters on the condition of anonymity later Monday that they are continuing to work to “responsibly reduce the detainee population” through negotiations with relevant countries.
“For those detainees that have been recommended for transfer, the administration is very much focused on looking to pursue transfer,” the official said. “The Biden administration will apply all the necessary diplomatic resources to facilitate the transfer of detainees found eligible.”
The State Department is the lead negotiator with foreign nations on the issue of repatriation, the official said.
On whether Nasir will remain in custody in Morocco, the official said that would be up to them.
The transfer is the latest indication that President Joe Biden is continuing with an Obama-era goal to close the facility after U.S. Southern Command said it had closed a prison facility at the site in April.
In February, the White House announced a review of the detention facility launched by the National Security Council as Biden seeks to have it shuttered by the time he leaves office.
During the administration of President Donald Trump, only one prisoner at the so-called black site was transferred, Ahmed Haza al-Darbi, a native of Saudi Arabia.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, then-President George W. Bush issued a military order directing the detention of certain non-citizens suspected of involvement in international terrorism at Guantanamo Bay, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.
The facility received its first 300 detainees in early 2002 and reached its maximum size of 684 prisoners in June 2003.
Of the remaining 39 detainees, 17 are eligible for a Periodic Review Board, 10 are involved in the military commissions process and two have been convicted.