Pentagon chief Ashton Carter says Guantanamo has got to go before Obama does

GlobalPost
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter conducts a press conference Aug. 20, 2015, from the media briefing room of the Pentagon in Washington. 
Paul J. Richards

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter issued a strong statement Thursday in support of closing the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

At a press conference at the Pentagon, Carter said the military prison in Cuba should be closed before President Barack Obama leaves his post in 2016.

“This is not something, in my judgment, that we should leave to the next president,” Carter said, according to AFP.

The defense secretary's reasons for wanting to close Guantanamo — something Obama made a cornerstone of his campaign back in 2009 — are manifold.

"As long as this detention facility remains open, it will remain a rallying cry for jihadi propaganda," Carter said. "It's expensive. ... And not something the president wants to leave to his successor."

Congress has previously opposed measures to transfer detainees to the US mainland.

"Our responsibility is to provide [Congress] with a plan that they can consider that is a responsible one so that people ... can make up their minds," Carter said.

If and when Guantanamo does close, some of the remaining prisoners are to be transferred to other countries while others will likely be headed to US soil. 

Carter said the most promising transfer sites on US soil include the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the naval brig at Charleston, S.C.

"That does not mean those sites will be chosen," he added, according to USA Today.

Obama has been criticized for not being able to muster the political capital to get Guantanamo closed, and more specifically for not being able to get his defense chiefs to fall in line with plans to close the prison. 

Al Jazeera reports that former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was pressured to resign in part because of his slow pace in approving transfers. 

Since taking over in February, The Daily Beast reported that Carter was specifically dragging his feet over sign offs because he didn't feel comfortable putting his name on the line for many of the individuals in question. 

Carter's recent comments in support of closing Guantanamo, however, could signal a shift on that front.