To the astonishment of many, President Trump decided to send the Arizona 850th Military Police Batallion for a nine-month mission to Gitmo base in Cuba today.
The official statement of the Arizona National Guard says that “this is the second deployment for the 850th Military Police Battalion in the last 10 years in support of overseas contingency operations.”
This may seem like a random act, but given that there are currently only a handful of detainees left in Guantanamo base (55 is the official figure), sending a whole battalion does sound like overkill.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/developingstory?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#developingstory</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/AZNationalGuard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AZNationalGuard</a> 850th Military Police Batallion are deploying tomorrow for nine months at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GTMO?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GTMO</a> On the Friday between Christmas & New Year's- is this a classic "PR dump" or just the way the military works? What do you think of this mission? <a href="https://twitter.com/azfamily?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@azfamily</a> <a href="https://t.co/MfNPqjpHwR">pic.twitter.com/MfNPqjpHwR</a></p>— Sean McLaughlin CBS5 (@SeanOnTV) <a href="https://twitter.com/SeanOnTV/status/946579310546075649?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">29 December 2017</a></blockquote>
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Furthermore, with Vice-President Pence visiting just a fortnight ago and Secretary of Defense James Mattis making the first visit by a Pentagon Chief in 16 years on 21 December, the internet is rife with speculation that new prisoners will soon be transferred to Gitmo again.
During his visit, Mr Mattis did not tour the detention facilities but held meetings with the officers and offered Christmas wishes to the soldiers present.
The last defense chief to visit Guantanamo Bay before him was, in fact, Donald Rumsfeld, who went there in January 2002, only a few weeks after the first detainees arrived from Afghanistan.
The detention centre, which was set up to hold suspected terrorists shortly after the 9/11 attacks, was high on Trump’s list during the Presidential campaign, when he stated: “We’re going to keep, as you know, Gitmo, we’re keeping that open."
President Trump asked Congress in the spring of 2017 for additional funding, which the Republican-controlled House incorporated in a 2018 spending bill. The goal is to provide $115 million to build new military barracks for U.S. troops stationed at the base. It furthermore states that the detention camp would be shielded from closure and prevents the transfer of detainees to the United States.