By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
March 7, 2008 - The nearly 300 captured enemy combatants being held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility are provided respect and the best quality of life available under the circumstances, the commander of the detention task force said today. The facility follows strict U.S. military and international standards that ensure each detainee is treated humanely and with respect, Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said during a conference call with reporters.
"We like to think that we meet or exceed those standards, in terms of what we provide them and the distance that we go to ensure that their (living) conditions are as humane as possible, given the fact that they are being incarcerated," Buzby said. He has commanded the task force's 2,100 U.S. servicemembers and civilians since May.
The detention center's staff constantly is seeking ways to improve detainees' quality of life, Buzby said. Some detainees in good standing, he noted, may elect to take literacy classes in their own language or learn English.
Offering incentives to detainees in exchange for good behavior makes sense, Buzby explained. "If you give them things that they enjoy or like, if they misbehave, those are privileges they can lose."
The detention facility now houses about 275 detainees, Buzby said. About 500 detainees, he noted, have been released or transferred from Guantanamo since the facility was opened in 2002.
Nearly 200 detainees being held at Guantanamo today are terrorists, including al Qaeda operatives, who constitute an ever-present danger to the facility's guard force, Buzby noted.
"We're getting down to the hard core now," Buzby pointed out.
Guantanamo's guard force must always be alert and vigilant, Buzby said, because the incarcerated jihadists "will take every opportunity they can to exploit any bit of weakness."
Holding former enemy combatants at Guantanamo keeps them off the battlefield, Buzby said. And, ongoing interrogation sessions with inmates continue to produce valuable intelligence, he added.
Interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo are conducted by highly trained intelligence personnel who adhere to Army regulations that strictly forbid torture, Buzby said.
Developing a rapport with detainees is the most successful technique for obtaining information at Guantanamo, he said. "We get so much dependable information from just sitting down and having a conversation and treating them like human beings in a businesslike manner," he said.
Buzby said he is proud of his troops and civilian employees, noting they are successfully performing a very difficult, challenging mission. "They are just magnificent people. It really makes it a pleasure to command such a fantastic group," he said.