As is universally recognized, Kuwait is a close and faithful ally of the United States. The United States liberated Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion of 1990. More recently, Kuwait provided critical support as a staging area for the U.S. military during the Iraq War.
To be fair, the Emir of Kuwait has sought the return of the Kuwaiti detainees in face-to-face meetings with both President Bush and President Obama. The Emir has also sent a letter to the U.S. government requesting that all Kuwaiti citizens detained at Guantanamo be returned. Other Kuwaiti officials have repeated that request to their counterparts in the U.S. government.
The Government of Kuwait has also fulfilled all of the conditions the U.S. government established for the return of the Kuwaiti detainees. Perhaps most significantly, Kuwait established a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center that provides access to education, medical care, group discussions, and physical exercise to help detainees recover from their long ordeal in Guantanamo.
But while Kuwait has clearly made an effort to secure the return of its citizens, these efforts have not been strong enough. Contrast Kuwait’s quiet, diplomatic approach with that of Saudi Arabia, which openly criticized the U.S. government and demanded its citizens back. As a result, more than 100 Saudi detainees were transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia.
Despite the close ties between the United States and Kuwait, the United States does not appear eager to send Kuwaitis home. For example, on September 17, 2009, a U.S. federal judge ordered the immediate release of Fouad Al Rabiah, an innocent Kuwaiti who was interrogated in “enhanced” ways at the hands of his U.S. captors. Rather than immediately returning him to Kuwait, the U.S. government delayed and stalled Mr. Al Rabiah’s transfer, forcing his attorneys to ask that U.S. officials be held in contempt of court.
It was not until December 9, 2009, almost three months after the judge’s order, that Mr. Al Rabiah was finally released from Guantanamo and returned to Kuwait. Still, even with a Federal judge’s opinion that the United States had no authority to detain Mr Al Rabiah, the Kuwaiti government refused to demand his return.
If the United States was reluctant to release a demonstrably innocent man, it most certainly will be in no rush to repatriate my client, Fayiz Al Kandari, whose habeas case is still pending despite Fayiz having spent more than eight years in Guantanamo.
At this critical time, the United States is turning its back on its faithful ally. The United States may be legitimately reluctant to return detainees to countries such as Tunisia or Libya where former prisoners may face further torture or persecution. But there are no such concerns about Kuwait. To the contrary, Kuwait treats its returned detainees humanely and helps reintegrate them into society with a rehabilitation program modeled after the successful Saudi program.
No one likes to tell their friends they are wrong. But there comes a time in every relationship when a little push back is necessary. And the friendship survives. Now is the time for the Government of Kuwait to take a stand. It might be outside its comfort zone, but it is the right thing to do for its two citizens still imprisoned at Guantanamo.
Lt. Col. Barry Wingard represents Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti who has spent seven and a half years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay without trial.
"[DNC Chair Tom Perez] has gotten instructions from Bill Clinton not to let the party go to the Bernie Sanders folks." - Jonathan Allen, co-author of Shattered, revealing new material in the upcoming paperback release pic.twitter.com/dLEnwl7kIc— HootHootBerns 🌹🐦 (@HootHootBerns) May 3, 2018