The U.S. is helping expand a prison in Afghanistan to take some detainees from Guantanamo Bay, while administration officials argue about whether to bring the most dangerous to the U.S. when the Cuban facility shuts down.
President Bush has made closing the prison in Cuba a priority, though the Afghan site is not meant to be a substitute, the White House said Friday.[..]
Officials say the administration is split, with Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the Justice Department vehemently opposed to any proposal that would bring detainees to U.S. soil, where they would be afforded more legal rights and might pose a threat.
Pressure to close Guantanamo has been mounting in recent months, with the administration suffering a series of legal setbacks and some in Congress threatening to mandate a shutdown.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, among others, are in favor of the proposal to bring some detainees to the U.S., provided proper safeguards are in place, officials say. And Perino made clear that Bush is determined to see Guantanamo Bay shut down.
"America does not have any intention of being the world's jailer," she said, noting that the United States has announced plans to release about 80 of the some 375 detainees remaining in Guantanamo and hopes to transfer several dozen Afghans back to Afghanistan in the near future.
Washington is helping the Afghan government build a high-security wing at Pul-e-Charki prison complex just outside Kabul. The wing has 330 cells and can hold up to 660 people, including 65 Afghans held at Guantanamo Bay, according to Afghan officials.