Biden’s decision on Afghanistan raises Guantanamo questions

US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan is raising questions about what, if any, effect that will have on the future of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

According to The Hill, at least two prisoners who have been challenging their detention have already updated their complaints to include Biden’s withdrawal as a reason they should be released.

But according to some experts while the war on terrorism will continue even after the last U.S. service member leaves Afghanistan, the legal justification for indefinite detention at Guantanamo does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, The Hill reported.

“I think the short answer is that we just don’t know,” Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, said of the withdrawal’s effect on Guantanamo.

“It clearly provides the remaining Guantanamo detainees with a new ground on which to challenge the legal basis for their continuing military detention, and one that is not necessarily foreclosed by existing precedent,” he added in an email.

“But it’s not at all clear that courts will be sympathetic to those arguments, not just because they haven’t been to date, but because the Executive Branch is likely to argue that the conflict with al-Qaeda isn’t ending just because we’re leaving Afghanistan.”

Forty men remain detained at the facility opened by former President George W. Bush after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Six have been cleared for transfer, and seven have been charged in the military commission system, including the five 9/11 suspects.

According to The Hill, the Biden administration is in the midst of reviewing the facility with the intention of closing it, but it remains to be seen whether that effort will be successful.

Amid the administration’s review, Biden is facing pressure to fulfill his promise to close the facility and 24 Senate Democrats penned a letter to Biden last week saying he could close the facility with “sufficient political will and swift action.”

“After years of indefinite detention without charge or trial; a history of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and multiple attempts at a thoroughly failed and discredited military commission process, it is past time to close Guantanamo’s detention facility and end indefinite detention,” read the letter, which was organized by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.

When Biden announced earlier this month he was ordering a full withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11, he declared, “It’s time to end the forever war.”

But Alli McCracken Jarrar, North American campaigner for Amnesty International, told The Hill that if Biden is serious about ending the “forever war,” he will close Guantanamo.

“I hope that he can align his timeline to withdraw from Afghanistan with his plan to close Guantanamo,” she said. “It would be wonderful to see the whole detention camp shut down and the men transferred out by September 11. And I think that would make a lot of groups feel happy and would really be a positive sign that he’s committed to his human rights obligations.”

The Hill reported that last week, lawyers for two Guantanamo detainees filed motions for the release of their clients, citing the withdrawal.

One of the two detainees is Asadullah Haroon Gul, an approximately 40-year-old Afghan captured by Afghan forces in 2007. His lawyers argued in a motion seeking their client’s immediate release that the withdrawal takes away any basis to continue holding him.

“The law is clear: Asadullah gets to go home now, regardless of whether, as the government incorrectly contends, he was part of or substantially supported al- Qaeda,” his lawyers wrote in the motion.