President Donald Trump’s new order banning most travel to the United States applies to seven states—Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea, and, for some reason, Chad. To include Chad on that list is, to say the least, bewildering.
Chad has been a key ally in the struggle against terrorism in the Sahel. It is a U.S. partner in the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP), and the United States Navy and Marines have supplied limited training to Chad’s armed forces. Further, the country has hosted U.S.-organized, multilateral military exercises. The Chadian military is generally regarded as one of the toughest in West Africa, playing a significant role in driving Boko Haram out of parts of northeast Nigeria in 2015, in conjunction with South Africa-based mercenaries and under the leadership of Nigerian forces. Furthermore, N’djamena, Chad’s capital, is the headquarters of the French anti-terrorism Operation Barkhane, one of France’s three global counterterrorism operations.
According to U.S. media, Trump administration sources are citing the presence of terrorist groups in Chad and N’djamena’s failure to share information with relevant U.S. entities as the reasons for including Chad on the list.
Such reasons are hardly credible. Terrorist groups are to be found in most of the countries in the region, a reason for TSCTP. As for alleged lack of information sharing, it is hard to know what this means. Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world and its government, led by dictator Idris Deby, has very limited government bureaucratic capacity. It is hard to imagine that withholding information on terrorist groups is a matter of Deby’s policy and not simply a matter of limited capacity.
The Trump administration may release its reasoning for including Chad in the coming days. For now, however, it looks more like incompetence than policy. If so, there may be a price to pay if Chad’s anti-terrorism efforts flag.