State Department Appoints 3rd Special Envoy For Guantanamo Closure in Six Years

Posted: 1:35 am  EDT
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On June 30, Secretary Kerry announced the appointment of Lee Wolosky, as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure:

Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Lee Wolosky, as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure. Lee will lead our ongoing diplomatic engagement to make possible the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility in a timely manner, consistent with American interests and the security of our people.

Lee Wolosky is a highly-skilled and experienced attorney who served as the National Security Council’s Director for Transnational Threats under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. He is ideally qualified to continue the hard diplomatic engagement that is required to close Guantanamo in accordance with President Obama’s directives. Lee will assume lead responsibility for arranging for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees abroad and for implementing transfer determinations, and overseeing the State Department’s participation in the periodic reviews of those detainees who are not approved for transfer.

In so doing, he will engage directly with America’s overseas friends and partners, while consulting closely with other interested U.S. agencies and with the appropriate committees of Congress.

I am very pleased at Lee’s decision to return to government service and look forward to working closely with him in his new position.

The State Department says that the incoming special envoy has not yet visited the detention facility at Guantanamo but that Mr. Wolosky, whose new appointment does not require Senate confirmation, “intends to visit the detention facility and meet with the detention facility leadership very soon.”

Mr. Wolosky is the third appointee to this position since it was created in 2009.

In January 2013, the NYT reported that Daniel Fried, the first special envoy for Gitmo closure was reassigned, his office closed, and his former responsibilities “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser.   Via NYT:

Mr. Fried’s special envoy post was created in 2009, shortly after Mr. Obama took office and promised to close the prison in his first year. A career diplomat, Mr. Fried traveled the world negotiating the repatriation of some 31 low-level detainees and persuading third-party countries to resettle about 40 who were cleared for release but could not be sent home because of fears of abuse.

But the outward flow of detainees slowed almost to a halt as Congress imposed restrictions on further transfers, leaving Mr. Fried with less to do. He was eventually assigned to work on resettling a group of Iranian exiles, known as the M.E.K., who were living in a refugee camp in Iraq, in addition to his Guantánamo duties.

But in June 2013, the AP reported that President Obama had chosen a high-powered Washington lawyer Clifford Sloan to reopen the State Department’s Office of Guantanamo Closure, shuttered since January 2013 and folded into the department’s legal adviser’s office “when the administration, in the face of congressional obstacles, effectively gave up its attempt to close the prison.”

Sixteen months later, Secretary Kerry announced the departure of Special Envoy Clifford Sloan on December 22, 2014:

I’d like to have about a hundred Cliff Sloans. He’s the real deal. He’s the model of someone very successful on the outside who comes in to the State Department and builds relationships instead of burning bridges, gets people on board with a tough assignment, masters the inter-agency process, and just keeps his head down and proves the doubters dead wrong.
[…]
Now the results are clear. We’ve made huge progress thanks in large measure to Cliff. This guy promised me 18 months, and he delivered maximum effort for each of those 18 months. Cliff was very skillful negotiating with our foreign partners and allies, and it’s a big part of why we moved thirty-four detainees on his watch, with more on the way. Cliff also played a major role in our successful efforts to reform the Congressional restrictions on foreign transfers, and in launching the new Periodic Review Board process.

The NYT reported that the resignation of Mr. Sloan, apparently a close confidant of Secretary Kerry, came as officials at the State Department and the White House increasingly expressed frustration with the Defense Department’s slow pace of transferring approved prisoners. In an interview, Mr. Sloan denied that he was leaving because he was frustrated by foot-dragging at the Pentagon. He said he had always intended to stay a maximum of 18 months, noting that he was right on schedule.

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