Christmas Comes Early to Guantánamo
The Navy announced Thursday that it was sending a career Naval officer from the Pentagon’s Joint Staff to serve as the 17th commander of prison operations at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Rear Adm. Edward Cashman, 51, is due to assume command of the downsizing detention center early next year, replacing Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, a submariner whose onward assignment has yet to be disclosed. No exact date was provided in the Department of Defense announcement. Cashman’s assignment was already in the Pentagon pipeline before the presidential election.
Cashman’s official title will be commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo, known in military circles as JTF-GTMO. A JTF is by definition a temporary operation that draws members from all of the Pentagon services.
The assignment was already in the Pentagon pipeline before the presidential election.
Cashman also becomes the ninth commander assigned to run prison operations since President Barack Obama ordered his administration to close the detention center, and now the first to run it following the election of Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to keep it open and “load it up with some bad dudes.”
As of Thursday, the detention center had 60 captives, 20 of the men approved for release with security assurances that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, and a staff of around 1,900 troops and civilians. President Obama said Monday that some of those transfers “may be taking place over the next two months.”
Cashman, a Massachusetts native, got a mechanical engineering degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most of his career has been in the Navy, although his current position, as director of the Pentagon’s Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization since November, involves all of the services.
The Joint Task Force Commander has oversight of the predominantly Army guard force, an intelligence unit, logistics and personnel, as well as a U.S. Coast Guard unit that patrols parts of Guantánamo Bay and the waters off the coastal prison complex.
Cashman ran a combined Navy-Coast Guard operation of patrol craft in the Persian Gulf, where the U.S. military sometimes engages Iranian vessels. That’s just what happened in January 2012, when a Coast Guard patrol boat, the Monomoy, saved six Iranian mariners from an unseaworthycargo dhow whose engine room was flooding in a “nighttime rescue at sea” celebrated by Cashman, then commander of Task Force 55, overseeing the operation.
In assuming the job, Cashman becomes the 17th flag officer to run the detention center since Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert opened it on Jan. 11, 2002 with the first 20 captives from Afghanistan. Most have been Navy one-star officers, like Cashman, on one-year assignment, although in the early years Army generals ran the prison.
Guantánamo detention center commanders
1. Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert (January 2002-March 2002)
2. Army Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus (March 2002-October 2002)
3. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey (October 2002-November 2002)
4. Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller (November 2002-March 2004)
5. Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood (March 2004-March 2006)
6. Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris (March 2006-May 2007)
7. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Buzby (May 2007-May 2008)
8. Navy Rear Adm. Dave Thomas (May 2008-June 2009)
9. Navy Rear Adm. Thomas Copeman (June 2009-June 2010)
10. Navy Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson (June 2010-August 2011)
11. Navy Rear Adm. David B. Woods (August 2011-June 2012)
12. Navy Rear Adm. John S. Smith (June 2012-July 2013)
13. Navy Rear Adm. Richard W. Butler (July 2013-July 2014)
14. Navy Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad July (2014-June 2015)
15. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jose Monteagudo (July 2015-November 2015)
16. Navy Rear Adm. Peter J. Clarke (November 2015-present)