U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday he expected the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, would close before President Barack Obama leaves office in January.
‘That is my hope and expectation,’ he told a news conference in Sweden.
The White House has been trying to close the facility since Obama took office but has been stymied by opposition in Congress.
The announcement comes after President Obama‘s decision earlier this month to release 15 prisoners from Guantánamo – called ‘Gitmo’ for short by the military – and send them to the United Arab Emirates.
The transfer of 12 Yemeni nationals and three Afghans marked the single largest release of detainees during the Obama administration.
But the decision was described as ‘reckless’, with Republicans arguing that it puts national security at risk.
GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign blasted Obama in a fundraising email Thursday, saying that ‘[a]s president, Trump REFUSES to shut down Gitmo and REFUSES to have foreign radical Islamic terrorists tried in our regular court systems here in America.’
‘Americans oppose shutting down Gitmo and releasing terrorists to our shores,’ the email continued. ‘This has to end. And it has to end NOW.’
Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said in a statement: ‘The unclassified report I secured from the Department of Defense demonstrates that these detainees just released are among the worst terrorists who could jeopardize our national security and the lives of our troops.
Trump has previously said he would be willing to try US citizens at Guantánamo Bay because the country needs a ‘very safe place’ to keep terrorists.
The Republican presidential nominee has previously ruled out closing the Cuban detention facility.