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Gitmo's General

The U.S. can't risk releasing detainee Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi.

12:00 AM, Mar 18, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The detainees have caused frequent problems for guards and other staff members. In an attempt to calm them, security officials have granted al Sharbi and other key leaders certain concessions. In return, camp officials believed that al Sharbi would be more helpful. And, at one point, he appeared to be wholly cooperative. For example, al Sharbi clearly did help calm some detainees. He even warned Guantánamo officials of a suicide attempt by some of the detainees. Only later, however, was it discovered that al Sharbi himself may have helped organize the suicides of three detainees.

It is now up to the Obama administration to decide how to handle al Sharbi's case. The new administration apparently wants to release or transfer a large number of detainees. But given al Sharbi's unrepentant terrorist ties and disturbing connections to senior al Qaeda members it would be surprising if he were not kept in U.S. custody.

And the new administration can learn something from the al Sharbi matter. Some detainees at Guantánamo will stop at nothing to kill Americans. Had al Sharbi not been captured and detained by the Bush administration he surely would have remained a key al Qaeda terrorist.

In this vein, Cucullu cites the experience of Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the former commander at Camp Delta. "I worked real close with Ghassan [al Sharbi]," Bumgarner wrote. "He helped me a lot in keeping calm in the camps. But he always made it clear, if he had the chance he would kill me."

Thomas Joscelyn is senior editor of the website Long War Journal.