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Can We Retrain Terrorists?

November 18, 2009
Philadelphia Inquirer

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As the Obama administration continues struggling with how to close Guantanamo, it finds itself with few options. The recent announcement of plans to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other detainees in federal court is a positive step, but it also reminds us that little headway has been made on most of the Guantanamo detainees. About 75 are deemed too dangerous to release, and 90 are suitable for transfer but have no place to go.

Without any good choices, rehabilitation has emerged as a possible alternative. A recent trip I took to Saudi Arabia suggested that updated rehabilitation strategies could be a viable, though unorthodox, solution to the Guantanamo problem.

Every debate about whether President Obama can close Guantanamo by his self-imposed January deadline considers the "deradicalization" option, particularly for the 97 Yemenis who make up nearly half the remaining detainees. U.S. officials are actively considering sending the Yemenis to Saudi Arabia's rehabilitation program, which seemed tremendously successful until earlier this year, when some "rehabilitated" former Guantanamo detainees joined al-Qaeda groups in Yemen.

And yet the Saudis are still committed to deradicalization. Even Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a leader in Saudi counterterrorism efforts, wholeheartedly supports the program - despite having watched one of its graduates try to assassinate him.

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