Trump’s latest list of travel banned from countries he deems unworthy now includes the African nation of Chad leaving experts scratching their heads, some calling it “sheer stupidity.”
“It makes no sense whatsoever. In fact I wonder if there wasn’t some sort of mistake made,” John Campbell, a former US ambassador to Nigeria, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s an insult. What really gets to me is the apparent sheer stupidity of it.”
On Monday Chad’s government said it was “astonished” and “baffled” to find its citizens blacklisted by Trump. Local press reported that the US ambassador was summoned to meet with the prime minister on Monday.
In a statement to local media, Chad’s government said it “invites president Donald Trump to reconsider this decision, which severely tarnishes the image of Chad, and the strong relationship between the two countries, particularly in the fight against terrorism.”
The surprising move raised concerns that the ban could impact the country’s close working relationship with the Pentagon. Chad has been a key US ally in an often-volatile neighborhood that’s bordered by Nigeria, Libya, Niger, Central African Republic, and Sudan — the last of which was on Trump’s previous travel ban list but was removed from this one.
Chad, which is home to a US military facility, just hosted an annual 20-nation military exercise with US Africa Command to strengthen local forces to fight extremist insurgents.
It also hosts the multinational task force that is fighting the terrorist group Boko Haram and has been praised for being willing and able to provide its own troops to fight in the region. The US Army, Navy, and Marines have all trained Chadian forces, which have fought extremists in Mali and Nigeria.
The country also has a long relationship with US oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp., which owns a petroleum exploration permit in Chad that expires in 2050. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s number-two when the deal was signed. [..]
Campbell, like many former State Department officials and Africa analysts on Monday, said the Trump administration’s stated reasons for singling out Chad didn’t hold up. On Sunday the administration cited the country’s failure to “adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information.”
“What does that mean? Chad is desperately poor. … It has a tough army but limited bureaucratic capacity,” Campbell said. “I tend to doubt that there was a decision made not to share information with the Americans.”
The other concern that was tossed out by the White House was the presence of “significant” terrorist groups in Chad.
That is not unique to Chad, analysts say, saying that description could also apply to Niger, Mali, and Nigeria.
“It’s in a bad neighborhood, no doubt there are bad guys, but there are a number of other countries with the same issue that don’t have this strong military relationship with the US and France,” said Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “I assume that Chadians find this gesture deeply insulting, to be singled out in this way when they’re providing troops in the fight against extremism and participating in these partnerships.”
The Pentagon is especially baffled since Chad has been essential in the fight against Daesh and Boko Haram and its inclusion in the travel ban could hamper those efforts. Trump accepted the recommendation of Elaine C. Duke who became acting head of DHS when General John Kelly left to become Trump’s chief of staff. Ms. Duke worked at DHS under the G. W. Bush administration leaving for the private sector in 2010. She returned in April of this year. Her expertise is in business management and procurement.
Considering that countries like Libya, Nigeria, Niger and Sudan, which was removed from the list, are far less cooperative in containing and fighting terrorism, it’s baffling why a crucial ally like Chad had been targeted. The White House excuses just don’t hold up to close scrutiny.