November 30th, 2010
06:28 PM ET

Kuwait's fix for Guantanamo detainees: Let them die in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -  As the United States negotiated with countries around the world to find new homes for the remaining detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Kuwait's minister of interior had a solution for the four Kuwaiti citizens left in the prison.

"You picked them up in Afghanistan; you should drop them off in Afghanistan," Shaikh Jaber Al-Khalid Al-Sabah is quoted as saying, "in the middle of the war zone," where the detainees could be killed in combat.

The 2009 cable titled "The Interior Minister's remedy for terrorists: "Let them die," is among the diplomatic documents posted online by WikiLeaks.

In it, Al-Sabah is quoted as expressing concerns about his country's ability to hold the Guantanamo detainees.

"You know better than I that we cannot deal with these people. I can't detain them," said Al-Sabah. "If I take their passports, they will sue to get them. I can talk to you into next week about building a rehabilitation center, but it won't happen. ... They are rotten and the best thing to do is get rid of them."

The cable reflects the difficult position the Kuwaiti government was in regarding the detainees and its problems in "apprehending and detaining terror financiers and facilitators under Kuwait's current legal and political framework."

Facing pressure to "bring their boys home," as the cable puts it, Kuwait's inability to keep the suspected terrorists in custody was a difficult and embarrassing issue, as exemplified by the case of Mohammed al-Bathali.

Al-Bathali, a self-confessed jihadi recruiter and terror financier, had been sentenced to serve three to five years for "'inciting jihad' against a friend state."  But he was released on bond.

In a different cable from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh there is a discussion regarding the recidivism rate of Guantanamo detainees returned to Saudi Arabia who then passed through the country's rehabilitation program. Of the 119 detainees who went through the program, the cable reports, the overall rate of recidivism was 8 to 10 percent, according to the 2009 cable.

"The real story of the Saudi rehabilitation program is one of success: at least 90 percent of its graduates appear to have given up jihad and reintegrated into Saudi society," the cable says. "The recidivists are the exception, not the rule."

The cable does acknowledge however, that it was more difficult to rehabilitate former Guantanamo detainees than others.

In another creative solution for the detainees, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah proposed to implant a Bluetooth-like device into former Guantanamo detainees to track their movements.

During a March 22, 2009, meeting between U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan and King Abdullah, the king suggested an "electronic chip" be implanted in the detainees to allow for tracking their movements as is done with Saudi horses and falcons.

According to the cable, Brennan deflected the idea, saying, "horses don't have good lawyers," pointing out that such a proposal would face legal hurdles in the United States.

The relocation of 17 Chinese Muslim Uyghurs detained at Guantanamo Bay also was a thorny issue for the United States, according to the WikiLeaks cables. Attempts to find new homes for those detainees was met with resistance because of fear of retribution from China.

At one point, Germany considered accepting seven of the Uyghurs. But the government was "subsequently warned by China of 'a heavy burden on bilateral relations'" between Germany and China if the Germans accepted the detainees.

According to one cable, German Chancellery Security and Foreign Policy Advisor Christoph Heusgen said relocation of the Uyghurs "would be 'too difficult,' but Germany could probably accept '2-3 others' from Guantanamo.

The document also summarized Heursgen as saying, "if Germany were to take any [Uyghurs], it would be best to do so in combination with other European countries to prevent China from focusing its opposition on any one country."

In another cable, this one from the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the Chinese ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Zhang Yannian, is quoted as calling America's refusal to relocate the detainees to China a "slap in the face."

The missive quotes Zhang as saying, "Releasing 17 from Guantanamo is an unfriendly act toward us."

"He then went on at length about what a 'slap in the face' it was to China that the Uyghur detainees were not going to be returned to their homeland but instead shipped to Germany, where reportedly they had already been granted refugee status," the cable says.

It goes on to say that Zhang "did imply that the Guantanamo situation had made China look for ways to hit back at the U.S."

The 17 Uyghurs were eventually relocated to Palau, Bermuda, Albania, and Switzerland.

Topics: The News

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