In annual speech, Trump vows to keep Guantanamo open

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Trump vows to eradicate Islamic State group, expand Guantanamo Bay prison and support Iranian anti-government protesters

US President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night (Reuters)
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Wednesday 31 January 2018 11:07 UTC
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In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump addressed the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group and vowed to keep open the controversial detention facility Guantanamo Bay. He also expressed support for protesting Iranians and vowed to curb immigration in the effort to combat “terrorism”.

Trump appeared to take credit for driving IS militants out of their strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

"I am proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria," he said, using a different acronym for IS.

"But there is much more work to be done. We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated.

"Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil," Trump said. "When possible, we have no choice but to annihilate them. When necessary, we must be able to detain and question them. But we must be clear. Terrorists are not merely criminals, they are unlawful, enemy combatants."

Trump said he would not shy away from controversial treatment of captive militants. 

He said he would keep Guantanamo Bay open, breaking from his predecessor Barack Obama's lengthy and ultimately failed efforts to close down the maligned detention facility.

"I just signed an order directing Secretary Mattis to re-examine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay," Trump said.

Under president George W Bush, the US military hastily constructed a prison camp on Guantanamo Bay, located on the US naval base on the eastern tip of Cuba, in the months following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

At first, inmates were held in cages and fenced in with razor wire. Conditions for the orange jumpsuit-clad detainees provoked a global outcry in 2002.

Since then, hundreds have been transferred back to their home countries or other places.

Of the 41 inmates remaining at Guantanamo, about 26 are trapped in legal purgatory. 

These so-called "forever prisoners" have never been charged - yet the US has deemed them too dangerous to release. 

On the campaign trail, Trump famously vowed he would load Guantanamo with "bad dudes," and said it would be "fine" if US terror suspects were sent there for trial.

Trump also threw Washington's weight behind Iranians protesting against their own government.

"When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent," he declared, in implicit criticism of his predecessor's cautious response to a 2009 protest movement.

"America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom," he added, to applause from assembled lawmakers.

Iranians were among the people that Trump aimed to prevent from entering the US with his executive order that became known as the "Muslim ban".