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Guantanamo Camp Delta to undergo transformation

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WASHINGTON — In a few years, Pentagon officials say, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will have undergone a radical transformation.

The sprawling detention camp known as Camp Delta, with its watchtowers, double-wide trailers housing rows of steel cells and interrogation rooms will be mostly demolished.

Instead, a sharply reduced inmate population of those the military considers the most hard-core will inhabit two nearby hard-walled modern prisons. The newest of those, which is still under construction, is modeled on a modern county jail in Michigan and is designed to counter international criticism of Guantanamo as inhumane and, to some, a symbol of American arrogance.

The first step in changing the character of Guantanamo, officials say, is to relocate many of the 520 detainees. As part of that effort, Defense and State Department officials this week said that they had reached agreement with Afghanistan to transfer 110 Afghani detainees to their home country. Eventually, the population will be reduced to 320, the capacity of the permanent prison buildings.

Under the agreement, the United States will assist the Afghanistan government in constructing new prison facilities and training correction personnel; in return, the Afghanistan government has pledged to ensure that the transferred prisoners are not freed to fight against the United States or allied governments.

"We know that there will be a number of individuals that cannot be released because of a high degree of certainty they would return to the battlefield," Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman said on Friday.

"We're looking for ways to share that responsibility with our coalition partners."

The agreement with Afghanistan is the first such understanding. The Pentagon and State Departments are also negotiating to move large numbers of inmates to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, but officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it involved diplomatic negotiations said those talks had not yet progressed to the same stage as those in Afghanistan.

Whitman said the Afghanistan agreement also covers 350 Afghan prisoners now being held by American forces at a detention facility at the Bagram air base within the country.