Dwindling Guantanamo prisonners persists

By Reuters   April 24, 2016 | 12:11 pm GMT+7
The population of detainees at Guantanamo Bay military prison is shrinking, but Obama's goal of closing the prison is still elusive.

Observed from behind a one-way mirror and heavy chain-link fence, a handful of bearded detainees in baggy t-shirts mill around inside a communal cellblock at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, vastly outnumbered by U.S. troops guarding them.

This is the shrinking world of America's notorious offshore prison, a scene that underscores how U.S. President Barack Obama is running out of time - and options - to meet his pledge to close the compound before he leaves office in January.

U.S. Army Colonel David Heath commands the guard force at the prison.

"I treat them the way I would want to be treated if I was a prisoner of war, or whatever. So that's what I emphasize with my guards and insist that that's how we behave here. We don't abuse people here. We don't torture anyone. We don't --- I don't go out of my way to make people miserable," he told reporters during a carefully scripted media tour this week.

Obama has whittled down the number of prisoners to 80, the lowest since shortly after his predecessor George W. Bush opened the facility to hold terrorism suspects rounded up overseas following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But the president faces political and legal obstacles that may prove insurmountable in his final push to empty the detention center at the U.S. naval station in Cuba, according to some U.S. officials in Washington.

Still, there were growing signs that operations are beginning to wind down at the prison, where many cells now stand empty.

The 1,100-strong force of military personnel assigned to secure Guantanamo's far-flung lockups, ranging from communal compounds for well-behaved prisoners to solitary confinement for those considered most dangerous, has remained largely unchanged. That works out to about 14 guards for

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