Cliff Sloan, the special envoy for Guantanamo closure, is leaving the Obama administration. Secretary of State John Kerry lauded Sloan Monday evening in a statement, writing, "I'd like to have about a hundred Cliff Sloans. He's the real deal. He's the model of someone very successful on the outside who comes in to the State Department and builds relationships instead of burning bridges."
Sloan was the lawyer charged with finding new homes for cleared Guantanamo Bay detainees. As CBS State Department Correspondent Margaret Brennan puts it, "He had the difficult job for the last year and a half of convincing other countries to do what the U.S. will not: accept Guantanamo Bay detainees on their soil." Kerry acknowledged the challenges inherent in the job for Sloan, saying, "This wasn't the most coveted job in Washington. A lot of people thought Cliff must not have known what he was taking on when he signed up here. This is a low-risk city, and Cliff was taking a risk."
Brennan says that Sloan's efforts to broker transfers were stymied by political problems and by Defense Secretary Hagel, who was perceived to be reluctant to sign off on the transfers. Still, Sloan had some successes. He negotiated the recent transfer of six detainees to Uruguay. (At least one of those detainees is locked in an ongoing lawsuit with the U.S. demanding the disclosure of classified videotapes showing forced cell extraction and forced feedings of some of the detainees. )
Sloan also oversaw the transfer of the first round of Afghan detainees to Afghanistan since 2009 this past weekend. The four Afghans had long been approved for transfer, but Hagel did not sign off initially because the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, was concerned that the Afghans might be a danger to U.S. troops there.
Kerry, in his statement, praised Sloan for his skillful negotiations with foreign partners and credited him with moving 34 detainees during the 18 months he was in the position. He said he was "convinced that there's a finish line in sight now because of the strides we made in 2014 especially, and Cliff's a big part of that progress."
That finish line is the ultimate closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The President, on his second day in office in 2009, promised to close Guantanamo within a year, a promise that he's now nearly five years late on delivering on.
Before the Guantanamo stint, Sloan was a partner at Skadden Arps and had served in the White House Counsel's office in the Clinton administration. His portfolio there included vetting, which led to a couple of appearances on "The Colbert Report," when Stephen Colbert decided he wanted a cabinet position. So he had Sloan vet him in a two-part appearance. He has also been the publisher of Slate and general counsel for the Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive.