SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — President Barack Obama is now confirming what many have long suspected: He will miss his January deadline to close the Guantanamo prison — partly because he cannot persuade other nations to take the detainees.
This dilemma is one of the chief obstacles to closing the jail, according to lawyers and human rights groups who monitor U.S. detention policy. Most say Washington bears the main blame because it also refuses to accept prisoners on American soil. "It’s very difficult to persuade third countries to accept the political or security risks involved, especially when the United States has been unwilling to accept that risk itself,” said Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School. U.S. officials decline to disclose the details of efforts to relocate Guantanamo prisoners, though in the past they acknowledged the difficulty in resettling ethnic Uighurs from China. The administration says about 90 of the 215 men now held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba can be released or repatriated, but the administration has made little progress since Obama announced shortly after his inauguration that he would close the widely criticized prison. There are other factors causing Obama to miss the deadline. His administration must still resolve where it will try 40 to 60 prisoners suspected of terrorism. It also must decide where to relocate the others it wants to continue to hold without charging because it lacks evidence but fears their release, a prospect that dismays human rights groups.