President Obama may not use an executive order to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison after US government officials concluded it would not be a feasible plan of action, according to a report. The high security prison was set up in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.

President Obama had promised to shut down the prison during his 2008 presidential campaign, and had even called the detention centre a recruitment tool for terrorists. However, chances of shutting down the prison during his last year in office now seem bleak, says a Reuters report, citing sources.

The White House has repeatedly maintained that Obama is keen on keeping his pledge. But, without the option of executive action, the president will have to get the support of Congress to withdraw a ban on bringing the prisoners to maximum security jails in the US. Besides, Republicans in Congress are opposed to the relocation of prisoners to other countries for fear they will return to militant activities.

"It was just deemed too difficult to get through all of the hurdles that they would need to get through," the source told Reuters, "and the level of support they were likely to receive on it was thought to be too low to generate such controversy, particularly at a sensitive [time] in an election cycle."

When the prison opened it housed nearly 800 prisoners. That number has now dwindled to 80. The Obama administration is working on getting the number further down to 20, so that the cost of keeping it open proves irksome to Congress. Thirty of the 80 detainees have been approved to be transferred to other countries and all of them may be moved by summer.

Guantanamo bay
The United States flag flies inside of Joint Task Force Guantanamo Camp VI at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo BayLucas Jackson/ Reuters

"The administration's goal is to work with Congress to find a solution to close Guantanamo," Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said, adding that the government had made "substantial progress" moving prisoners to foreign countries and will soon conduct a review to find out whether certain detainees need to remain imprisoned or not.

Considering Obama would need the support of Congress to shut down the Guantanamo prison without an executive order, Gregory Craig, who was Obama's first White House counsel, said: "I think the odds are probably challenging".