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Obama To Discuss Gitmo Closure As Pentagon Reports To Congress

Protesters demonstrate against Guantanamo and Bagram prisons in Kabul in January.
Protesters demonstrate against Guantanamo and Bagram prisons in Kabul in January.

The Pentagon is preparing to submit a long-awaited report to Congress about closing the U.S. military's detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said U.S. military officials understand that the deadline for the report is on February 23 and that they intend to meet it.

President Barack Obama is due to make a statement about the facility at the White House at 4:10 p.m. local time.

Obama pledged before his first term began that he would close the facility, known as Gitmo. But he has faced stiff opposition in Congress.

Obama has argued that the existence of the facility helps Islamic extremists recruit new members.

The detention center was opened in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush to hold suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants who were captured after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

Detainees were legally designated by the Bush administration as "enemy combatants" rather than prisoners of war, with the Bush administration arguing that the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war did not apply to them.

Gitmo detainees also were denied legal rights that apply to U.S. citizens or to foreign citizens that are held within the United States.

Many were held for years without charge or trial.

Only 91 of 780 inmates remain at the prison. About 50 have been deemed too dangerous to ever be released.

To muster approval in Congress, Obama must show how the remaining prisoners can be accommodated at other facilities within U.S. borders.

The Pentagon report is expected to contain details about how much it would cost to house the men at other sites, like the U.S. Army's prison facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

With reporting by AP and AFP