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Inside the Gitmo Task Force's Final Report

President Obama's own task force concluded that 95 percent of the Gitmo detainees had at least some connection to the terror network.

10:55 AM, May 27, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The first category is the “high end of the threat spectrum,” and includes “leaders, planners, operatives, and facilitators within al-Qaida or associated groups who are directly implicated in terrorist plots against U.S. interests.” The Task Force concluded that “roughly” 10 percent (or 24 detainees) of the detainee population as of January 2009 belonged in this category. Arch-terrorists such as 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are among the more notorious members of this first category.  

The second category includes other detainees who have “played significant organizational roles within al-Qaida or associated terrorist organizations, even if they may not have been directly involved in terrorist plots against U.S. targets.” The Task Force explained:

This group includes, for example, individuals responsible for overseeing or providing logistical support to al-Qaida’s training operations in Afghanistan; facilitators who helped move money and personnel for al-Qaida; a cadre of Usama bin Laden’s bodyguards, who held a unique position of trust within al-Qaida; and well-trained operatives who were being groomed by al-Qaida leaders for future terrorist operations. 

The Task Force placed “roughly” 20 percent (48 detainees) of the Gitmo population in this second category.

The Task Force’s third category includes “Taliban leaders,” as well as “members of anti-Coalition militia groups” who were “involved in local insurgent networks in Afghanistan implicated in attacks on Coalition forces.” The Task Force placed less than 10 percent (or less than 24 detainees) of the Gitmo population held as of January 2009 in this category.

The Task Force’s fourth, and final, category includes “[l]ow-level foreign fighters” with “varying degrees of connection to al-Qaida, the Taliban, or associated groups, but who lacked a significant leadership or specialized role.” The Task Force explains: 

These detainees were typically captured in combat zones during the early stages of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, often by Northern Alliance troops or other allied forces, without being specifically targeted for capture by (or even known to) the U.S. military in advance. Many were relatively recent recruits to training camps in Afghanistan run by al-Qaida or other groups, where they received limited weapons training, but do not appear to have been among those selected for more advanced training geared toward terrorist operations abroad.

The Task Force placed a “majority of the detainees” in this fourth category. Low-level fighters are, of course, the ones who do the bulk of al Qaeda’s and the Taliban’s fighting. It is also from their ranks that the higher-ups recruit individuals for martyrdom operations. For example, Abdullah al Ajmi was a low-level fighter when he was captured and detained at Guantanamo. Al Ajmi was transferred to Kuwait in 2005 and then made his way to Iraq where he detonated a car bomb in a suicide attack in March 2008. 13 Iraqis were killed in that attack.

The Task Force did not argue that “low-level foreign fighters” pose no threat, of course. The Task Force simply concluded that these detainees pose less of a threat than terrorists such as the September 11 plotters and other more experienced detainees.

Reading between the lines, it appears that the Task Force placed roughly 55 percent of the Gitmo population (or 132 detainees) as of January 2009 in this fourth category.

In sum, the Task Force found that 95 percent of the detainees (or 228 detainees) held at Gitmo as of January 2009 were properly placed in one of the four categories described above. Only 5 percent of the Gitmo population did not fit into one of these categories, and the Task Force placed these individuals in a “miscellaneous” category. It is not clear who these detainees are, but the Task Force did not dismiss them as innocents either.       

Reading the Task Force’s final report, it is clear why closing Gitmo has been so problematic. President Obama’s own task force concluded that the overwhelming majority, 95 percent, of the detainee population had some noteworthy connection to the terror network. And no detainees, except for 17 Uighur detainees, have been cleared for “release.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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