US President Barack Obama will keep his promise to close the American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before his presidency ends in 11 months, according to the White House.
Obama will first provide Congress a long-awaited plan about how to close the detention facility, and seek its approval, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.
If Congress fails to act, the Obama administration will determine the next step, he said.
“He feels an obligation to the next president. He will fix this so that they don’t have to be confronted with the same set of challenges,” McDonough said.
Obama had promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison during the 2008 presidential election campaign, citing its damage to the US reputation abroad.
However, later on the president backed away on his campaign promise due to stiff opposition from Congress.
As many as 775 detainees were brought to the prison, which was set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks. There are 104 detainees left at the prison.
Washington says the prisoners are terror suspects, but has not pressed charges against most of them in any court. Many detainees have been on hunger strike for months to draw attention to their deteriorating conditions.
The Obama administration has transferred most detainees to other countries, but there is a small number of detainees who the administration says it would like to detain in a US facility for national security reasons.
Congress has explicitly banned the transfer of Guantanamo detainees from Cuba to US soil.
McDonough declined to say whether Obama would close the prison using his own executive powers if Congress rejects his plan. “I’m not an if-then guy,” he said.