World

Legal limbo for Guantanamo terror suspects as time winds down on law governing their capture

  • In this image reviewed by the U.S. military, the entrance to Camp VI detention facility is guarded at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. During nearly 12 years of legal disputes and political battles, the United States has put off deciding the fate of al-Qaida and Taliban militants held here, captured after the Sept. 11 attacks but denied quick or full access to the American justice system. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    In this image reviewed by the U.S. military, the entrance to Camp VI detention facility is guarded at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. During nearly 12 years of legal disputes and political battles, the United States has put off deciding the fate of al-Qaida and Taliban militants held here, captured after the Sept. 11 attacks but denied quick or full access to the American justice system. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo reviewed by the U.S. military, detainees behind a mirrored one-way window get ready for pre-dawn Islamic prayers in Camp VI detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. Today, 164 al-Qaida and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11 attacks are held at Guantanamo, down from a peak of about 660 a decade ago. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    In this photo reviewed by the U.S. military, detainees behind a mirrored one-way window get ready for pre-dawn Islamic prayers in Camp VI detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. Today, 164 al-Qaida and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11 attacks are held at Guantanamo, down from a peak of about 660 a decade ago. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo reviewed by the U.S. military, a cell is shown during a tour of Camp V detention facility for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. Today, 164 detainees are held at Guantanamo, costing U.S. taxpayers about $454 million each year -- about $2.7 million per detainee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    In this photo reviewed by the U.S. military, a cell is shown during a tour of Camp V detention facility for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. Today, 164 detainees are held at Guantanamo, costing U.S. taxpayers about $454 million each year -- about $2.7 million per detainee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  (The Associated Press)

The fate of 164 suspected terrorists who have lived for years in legal limbo at Guantanamo Bay may hinge on a law that could expire if U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

President Barack Obama has long promised to close the detention camp at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba, and Congress is struggling with whether to ease restrictions on trials and transfers for the suspects.

A 2001 law that allowed the U.S. military to invade Afghanistan to pursue and punish extremists linked to the Sept. 11 attacks also authorizes the Guantanamo detentions.

Whether it will remain valid if troops withdraw from Afghanistan — which Obama is considering for the end of 2014 — is an open legal question that officials and experts say must be resolved.