detainees yard
Detainees talk together inside the open-air yard at the Camp 4 detention facilityReuters/File

In 2009 US President Barack Obama had expressed his desire to shut the controversial Guantánamo Bay prison, which faced numerous hurdles, including that of the US Congress rejecting the plan, citing the issue of transferring detainees to prisons on the mainland.

But on Wednesday, 22 July, White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed that the plan to shut the prison is indeed being drafted.

"The Administration is in the final stages of drafting a plan to safely and responsibly close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to present that plan to Congress," Earnest said.

"That has been something that our national security officials have been working on for quite some time, primarily because it is a priority of the president," he added.

Soon after taking over as president, Obama had said that he would ensure that the prison is closed within his "first year in office". However, with repeated opposition from the US Congress over transferring or releasing prisoners from the site, and relocating them on mainland, the White House's plans never came to fruition.

According to Time, "Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, a long-time proponent of closing the prison, wants to give the Obama Administration an opportunity to potentially do so through the National Defense Authorization Act.

Through this route, Congress would have the ability to review the White House's plan for closing the prison. In the House however, Republicans still angry about the exchange of American service member Bowe Bergdahl for Taliban detainees are pushing a plan that would make any attempts to transfer prisoners and close the prison more difficult.

The Guantanamo prison is housed in a US military facility, close to Cuba, with whom the US recently restored diplomatic relations. However, Cuba has accused the US of illegally occupying its land and its foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez asked Washington earlier this week to return the territory.

Washington has steadily sent prisoners back to their home countries, or onwards to other countries, something that needs to continue if the facility is to be shut, Earnest said, adding that other detainees need to be prosecuted or reviewed for release.