U.S. transfers 5 more Guantanamo detainees; 127 remain

Updated 7:20 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014

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Two Yemenis and three Tunisians transferred

Guantanamo Bay has held nearly 800 detainees

(CNN) —  

The U.S. government has transferred five more Guantanamo Bay detainees, shrinking the number to 127.

The detainees, two Yemeni and three Tunisians, were repatriated to Kazakhstan, after the Guantanamo Review Task Force said it determined the men did not pose security threats.

The Defense Department identified the men as Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna, Sabri Muhammad Ibrahim Al Qurashi, Adel Al-Hakeemy, and Abdullah Bin Ali Al-Lufti.

The move was also made to further President Barack Obama’s goal of drawing down the number of those held at the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba, something that has been ongoing for years.

The departures of these four Afghan men means that, as of Saturday, 132 people are still detained at Guantanamo.

This is down significantly from the numbers soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the facility widely known as Gitmo was repurposed to hold detainees from the “war on terror.”

The administration of then-President George W. Bush claimed that, since Gitmo detainees weren’t held on American soil, they could be considered “enemy combatants” and be denied some legal protections. Almost all of the nearly 800 detainees were held without charges.

This legal limbo, as well as allegations of torture and other mistreatment, spurred criticism of Gitmo. Shortly after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the detention facility within a year.

That didn’t happen.

One reason was because of strong opposition from lawmakers, many of them Republicans, who cited the risk of freeing men who had fought to kill Americans.

About 17% of the 620 Gitmo detainees released – most of them during Bush’s presidency – went on to engage in terrorist activities, a September semiannual report from the director of national intelligence found. Another 12% are suspected of having engaged in terrorist or insurgent activities.

“As part of the outcome of any reconciliation process, the Taliban and other armed groups must end violence, break ties with (al Qaeda) and accept Afghanistan’s constitution, including its protections for women and minorities,” the embassy said. “This transfer demonstrates U.S. support for such a reconciliation process.”

CNN’s Greg Botelho, Jonathan Berryman, Masoud Popalzai and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.