President Barack Obama is expected to begin to fulfill his campaign pledge to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, AP‘s Philip Elliot reports.

A senior Obama administration official said the president would sign an order Thursday to shutter the Guantanamo prison within one year.

The U.S. naval facility has been a major sore point for critics around the world who say it violates domestic and international detainee rights. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the order has not yet been issued.

The executive order was one of three expected on how to interrogate and prosecute al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighters believed to threaten the United States. The administration already has suspended trials for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo for 120 days pending a review of the military tribunals.  Obama also had in hand executive orders to review military trials of terror suspects and end harsh interrogations, a key part of aides’ plans that had been assembled even before Obama won the election on Nov. 4.

“In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice,” said the draft executive order that would close Guantanamo.

These are significant steps that were widely anticipated.  Now comes the hard part: figuring out what to do with the thousands of prisoners held at the facility.  Recent reports have a handful of countries in Europe negotiating to take some of them.  The rest will have to either be released, tried in some manner, or housed elsewhere.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.

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