Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said it is “going to be very difficult” to close the controversial US prison at Guantanamo Bay by the end of President Barack Obama’s term in two years.

In an interview with National Public Radio that aired Monday, Hagel also acknowledged that he had taken a cautious approach to approving the transfer of some detainees out of the prison, which had reportedly irritated some officials in the White House.

Obama has repeatedly vowed to close the prison for terror suspects at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But Congress has banned the inmates from being sent to the United States and put up other obstacles, and US diplomats have struggled to find countries willing to take them in.

The number of inmates has gradually declined as the Obama administration has tried to speed up the transfer of detainees to their home countries or other nations willing to accept them.

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