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However, to minimize the significant risk of them joining
Hundreds of Gitmo detainees have been transferred or released since 2002, but it has not been without cost. More than 25% were later confirmed or suspected of engaging in terrorist activities. There are 164 detainees at Gitmo, including 30 Yemenis in conditional detention. These individuals are not facing prosecution, but they cannot be transferred until the security situation in Yemen improves, or third-country resettlement options are found, or an appropriate rehabilitation program becomes available. These detainees are not, as some politicians describe them, "the worst of the worst." They are not high-value detainees, nor is there a basis to hold them as enemy combatants.
Any former Gitmo detainee who later engages in terrorist activity poses a significant risk to the United States. This risk is particularly acute in Yemen, the home of AQAP, Al Qaeda's most active affiliate. While using former detainees as terrorist operatives is possible, AQAP would most likely exploit their "rock star" status for propaganda purposes to further the Al Qaeda narrative.
The best option is to establish a Yemeni rehabilitation program modeled on the Prince Muhammad bin Nayif Center for Counseling and Care, which was established to rehabilitate extremists paroled from Saudi prisons. Since 2006, more than 3,000 parolees have been processed through the center, including 120 former Gitmo detainees. The center acts like a traditional halfway house and combines de-radicalization (changing of thinking) and demobilization (consciously choosing to abandon violence as a means to political ends) by reintegrating detainees into their families, the economy and society.
It also applies significant legal, social and security pressure to discourage reengagement, such as encouraging beneficiaries to publicly renounce Al Qaeda. Post-release, Saudi security services monitor the parolees while the center provides financial support, counseling and other help. Those who fail to meet the terms of their parole are returned to the center or incarcerated.
While it is impossible to determine if the participants in this program become truly de-radicalized or simply demobilized, Saudi Arabia claims a recidivism-to-terrorism rate of 2% to 3%. This compares favorably with a 70% recidivism rate there for drug offenders and 45% for general crimes.
The Saudis concede that the former Gitmo detainees have had a higher recidivism rate than the non-Gitmo beneficiaries. Still, a combination of deradicalization, demobilization and post-release monitoring remains the most promising option to reduce this recidivism risk.
Following through on these actions would not eliminate all risks, but it is the option with the least political and security risks.