The Obama administration is taking a small step toward reaching the president’s goal of closing Guantanamo Bay.
The Defense Department announced Thursday that it transferred Ahmed Belbacha, 44, from the Cuban detention center to the government of Algeria.
Belbacha was determined to be a “probable member” of al-Qaida, including attending a Qaida-backed training camp and having associations with terrorist organizations, according to a leaked assessment from the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force at Guantanamo in 2006.
The report notes that while he is of low intelligence value, Belbacha could pose a threat to the United States, its interests, and its allies.
But a 2009 interagency review task force, ordered by President Obama, reviewed the case and unanimously decided that Belbacha could be transferred.
Thursday’s announcement is the most recent step in the president’s long uphill fight to close the prison. The administration has faced legal hurdles and political challenges, including opposition from Congress.
But Obama caught a break late last year. A provision in the annual defense authorization act eased transfer restrictions on detainees who have been cleared to leave and were never charged with a crime. It would allow them to return to their home countries or to certain other nations willing to receive them.
There are 154 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay.