- Terror, torture and torpor: Inside Guantanamo Bay with the 'forever prisoners'
- White House says it is drafting plan to close Guantanamo
Washington: The Obama administration aims to send Congress its long-awaited plan for closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay by Tuesday.
Obama in last fight to close Guantanamo
Outlining his plan to close the Guantanamo detention facility, US President Barack Obama urges Congress to give the plan a "fair hearing".
"We understand that the deadline is tomorrow and it's our intent to meet it," Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday.
Closing the prison would save the US many millions of dollars. Today, 2000 troops and civilians are stationed at Guantanamo Bay to staff the prison and court alone, by one measure working out to $US4.4 million (more than $6 million) a year for each of the last 91 detainees.
That's not because the huge staff is on standby for the possibility that the prison population might grow. Obama administration policy prohibits bringing new captives here.
Rather, the warden said in a recent interview that he staffs for the worst-case scenario at this remote outpost on Cuba's south-eastern tip - that each and every captive suddenly needs to be confined alone inside a cell rather than the current climate of most captives cooperating with their guards and allowed to live communally.
Of the 2000 prison staff, 1700 are US military and 1300 make up the guard force.
"I don't have the state police. I don't have the county sheriff," Army Colonel David Heath said. "I don't have anybody else to call to help me keep things under control here. And it would be several weeks before we could get a unit mobilised and in here."
In its 2016 policy bill, Congress set the White House a deadline to present a "comprehensive detention strategy" for how to handle current and future alleged terrorists. Obama administration officials have said their plan involves sending some cleared detainees to other countries and the rest to military detention somewhere in the US - something that Congress now forbids.
In the meantime, during a recent visit, the last 91 prisoners were scattered across at least six different lockups at the Detention Centre Zone that has been built in fits and starts since Camp X-Ray opened four months after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.
All but at most three captives that day were deemed compliant, cooperating with camp guards, mostly living in groups that signalled little strife.
But the far-flung nature of today's prison, different sites built to solve different problems across a decade of construction, some discarded, some repurposed, also accounts for the need for 1700 troops - about 18 soldiers for every captive.
Despite the immense financial cost, the White House downplayed the prospects for implementing its closure plan even before its release, expressing little confidence that lawmakers would agree to transfer dozens of suspected terrorists from the facility in Cuba to a site in the US.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have baulked at closing the prison, leaving one of the central promises of President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign unfulfilled. The Pentagon has struggled to find suitable facilities on the mainland to house prisoners who can't be transferred to other countries and has wrestled with the cost of the plan.
"I'm not confident," White House Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday when asked if the plan would be well-received by lawmakers. "We've seen many members of Congress express their opposition to considering the kinds of necessary steps to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay."
"We're keeping Guantanamo, forever," Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican running for president, said at a February 16 rally in South Carolina.
Bloomberg, Miami Herald