Mattis is first SecDef to visit Gitmo in almost 16 years

Matt Saintsing
December 21, 2017 - 12:28 pm

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kegan E. Kay


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made a surprise visit to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba on Wednesday, marking the first time a Pentagon chief has visited the base in nearly 16 years, according to The Associated Press.

Mattis flew in just in time to visit American troops stationed at the base for the holidays, but will not visit the detention center, which is home to 41 prisoners.

Donald Rumsfeld visited Guantanamo Bay, known simply as “Gitmo” to many, just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when the military prison was established to hold captured suspected terrorists.

Mattis’ visit comes as the Trump administration is set to decide on using the military prison. President Donald Trump hasn’t released any prisoners at Guantanamo, or added any of them who have been cleared to go home or to another country for resettlement.

41 prisoners still remain in detention, while 10 have been charged by a military commission. Five have been cleared to leave, but their final fate remains uncertain.

There are currently, 26 prisoners in indefinite confinement, but they could be cleared for release or find themselves prosecuted.

President Trump said in November that he would “certainly consider” sending a man suspected of mowing down eight people with a rented truck in New York City to the detention facility.

While campaigning, then-candidate Trump said that he intended to leave the prison open, and suggested that he would increase the number of detainees.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the base in July.

The U.S. has been leasing the 45 square mile base from Cuba since 1903, and the lease can only be terminated by a mutual agreement.