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Amended Travel Ban Threatens U.S. Military Relations With Chad


One thing that did not come up during President Trump's news conference was the latest version of his travel ban. It singles out eight countries including now Chad. The more than 14 million citizens of that Central African country will no longer be able to immigrate to the United States, and they won't be eligible for business or tourist visas either. Chad is on the travel ban list despite the fact that it's a key ally in counterterrorism operations. It's been vital in the fight against Boko Haram and against ISIS in West Africa. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Even the presidential proclamation banning the entry of virtually anyone from Chad recognizes that country's effort in fighting terrorism. The government of Chad, it reads, is an important and valuable counterterrorism partner of the U.S. Experts on that part of Africa agree.

ADAM MOORE: Chad is certainly a strategic partner with the U.S.

WELNA: Adam Moore is a UCLA geographer who's done a report on the U.S. military presence in Africa. Americans, he says, have collaborated for years with Chad.

MOORE: They have advisers and troops stationed in the capital, working with Chad and military officials - Chadian military officials and French military officials as well.

WELNA: Chad is a former French colony, and some 4,000 French troops are stationed there for counterterrorism operations. Earlier this year, some 2,000 U.S. troops carried out military exercises there with regional forces. John Campbell is a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, which borders Chad. Including Chad in the latest travel ban is, in his words, absolutely contrary to U.S. interests.

JOHN CAMPBELL: Chad played a significant role in Boko Haram from northeastern Nigeria. And pound for pound, the Chadian military is one of the toughest around, particularly in West Africa.

WELNA: In its rationale for putting Chad on a short list of blackballed nations that includes North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, the presidential decree states that, quote, "Chad does not adequately share public safety and terrorism-related information." It goes on to say that, quote, "several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region." And yet neighboring Sudan, which is 1 of only 3 nations the U.S. has declared a state sponsor of terrorism, is no longer on that list. Nor is Iraq even though the decree notes that it, too, failed to meet U.S. standards for information sharing. Former Ambassador Campbell says he sees no rational explanation for Chad's inclusion in the travel ban.

CAMPBELL: I do know that Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has a weak bureaucratic structure, and it's difficult for me to imagine that any lapses in information sharing were the results of policy. If such lapses occurred, I would suggest it had to do with a lack of capacity rather than policy.

WELNA: The government of Chad is equally mystified by why that country was included in the travel ban. In a statement asking that the Trump administration revisit its decision, the landlocked African nation's authorities expressed what they call their incomprehension of the official reasons given for that decision, reasons they say that, quote, "contrast with the efforts and ongoing commitments of Chad in the fight against terrorism." It added that the U.S. placement of Chad on the travel ban list, quote, "seriously undermines the image of Chad and the good relations between the two countries." Of the eight countries on that list, Chad is the only one identified by the U.S. as a, quote, "significant terrorism-related risk." David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.