Texas Gov. Rick Perry praised President Obama on Friday for the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born radical cleric suspected as a terrorist. But Perry also said the incident highlights the need to keep open Cuba's Guantánamo Bay terrorist detainee facility, which many Democrats want to close.
"I think it's the president keeping Guantánamo Bay open, even against the wishes of his base, is still paying dividends," Perry told Fox News. "We don't know for sure, but probably information or possibly information that came from the interrogations in Guantánamo Bay could be the reason that we were able to take out one of the high-value targets who have been damaging to America and American troops."
Obama administration officials have not said whether any information from the Cuban facility played a useful part in the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was head of external operations for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Awlaki was killed in a U.S. air strike in Yemen on Friday.
Earlier in the day, Perry said before a speech in Georgia, to huge applause: "I want to take a moment to congratulate the United States military and our intelligence community and President Obama for sticking with government's long-standing and aggressive anti-terror policies for getting another key terrorist."
Shortly after his inauguration, Obama signed an executive order directing the closing of the detention camp within a year and setting up a sweeping, high-level review of the best way to hold and question terrorist suspects in the future. But Obama's plan to close the prison ran into an unyielding wall of opposition from Republicans who argued it would lead to the release of dangerous prisoners.
In March 2011, Obama reversed his order halting new military charges against detainees at Guantánamo, permitting military trials to resume with revamped procedures. He has said that he remained committed to closing Guantánamo someday and to charging some terrorism suspects in civilian criminal courts. But Congress has blocked the transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo to the United States for trial.
In the Fox interview, Perry also criticized Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by next year.
"I disagree you ought to be given a timetable with anything dealing with the military," he said. "Should we try to get the young men and women home as soon and as safe as we can? Absolutely. To signal and telegraph to bad guys when we'll do it puts [troops] in jeopardy and undermines the mission."