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The Voice of America (VOA), citing “humanitarian sources and officials,” reports that Chad has withdrawn “hundreds” of troops from Niger where they had been fighting Boko Haram. Shortly after the announcement, Chadian Minister of Defense Bissa Ichara stressed that the troops were merely being redeployed to Chad’s northern border with Libya. With the withdrawal of Chadian troops, Boko Haram attacks in Niger’s Diffa region have increased, as has general banditry. Boko Haram militants, based in Nigeria, cross the Nigerien border to carry out raids and attacks.
Why are the Chadian troops leaving? It is suggestive that the departure comes in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s imposition of a travel ban for Chadian nationals coming to the United States. At the time, Chadian spokespersons warned that the ban could affect its security commitments.
Chadian troops are tough. Pound for pound, they are the most effective military in the Sahel. They played a significant role in the rollback of Boko haram in northeastern Nigeria in 2015. While there are complaints, likely valid, about their human rights violations, that is also true of other African militaries operating in the Sahel.
Chad is under the thumb of strongman Idris Deby. It is possible that Deby has taken the Trump administration travel ban as a personal insult, and that he is retaliating by withdrawing Chadian troops from Niger. Or, there may be other reasons specific to internal Chadian political, security, and economic concerns. Whether or not this latest travel ban is to blame for Chad’s troop movement, it is directly contrary to U.S. interests in fighting extremism in the Sahel and should be revoked at once.