Secretary of Defense James Mattis traveled to a military base for Christmas that President Obama had long promised he would close for good.
President Trump and members of his cabinet often visits military bases, typically in order to meet with or serve the troops. Trump’s secretary of defense is naturally no exception.
Mattis is regularly meeting with the troops around the world.
And this Christmas, Mattis chose to make a trip that no secretary of defense has made in almost two decades.
Mattis traveled to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and was the first SECDEF to do so since 2002. The move is a controversial one, given that the base is a prison internment camp which the Obama administration had promised to close many times.
Obama was never able to fulfill on his promise of closing the base, though he did succeed in dwindling the number of terrorist combatants interned there.
Mattis has been opaque in his position on closing Guantanamo Bay. When asked his position on the closure of the base, he simply said: “I believe that we should develop a repeatable detainee policy that is appropriate for enemy combatants taken prisoner under such circumstances.”
According to the Associated Press, Mattis did not travel for political purposes:
Mattis was meeting with troops, not touring the detention facilities or discussing detainee policy options. His stay comes amid uncertainty over the Trump administration’s policy on continued use of the military prison.
President Donald Trump hasn’t released any Guantanamo prisoners or added any to the list of men who have been officially cleared to go home or to a third country for resettlement.
Mattis is the first defense secretary to visit Guantanamo Bay since Donald Rumsfeld in January 2002, just weeks after the first prisoners arrived from Afghanistan in the early stages of the fight against
Mattis is beloved by the troops and retains one of the highest approval ratings among the entire Trump administration. The trip was certainly appreciated by those serving there.