Washington, D.C. — While the nation along with most within the media were reeling from yet another Twitter rant from U.S. President, Donald Trump; the target of his ire were the players of the National Football League (NFL) and their decision to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem.
Another story, barely noticed by many, slipped under the social media chaff on Sunday, The Trump administration issued an update to its travel ban and barred all travel to the United States from seven countries that, according to the current administration, pose a threat to national security, indefinitely.
The White House in a press release stated that Trump enhanced the “vetting capabilities and processes for detecting attempted entry into the United States by terrorists or other public-safety threats.” In essence updating the original Executive Order (EO) 13780, known as the Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, moving Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia from the 90-day travel ban to the indefinite banned list.
Also added to the new travel ban were North Korea and Chad, with countries like Venezuela and Iraq being added to the new Trump mandate, yet will only face heavier immigration restrictions on certain groups of people instead of a permanent ban.
Longtime critics of the Trump administration’s travel ban who dubbed the original executive order as a “Muslim ban” due to it focusing almost exclusively on countries with Islam as its primary religion are still claiming the latest update only further targets Muslim countries. And the addition of the non-Muslim countries of North Korea and Venezuela is just window dressing added on by Trump’s camp to avoid potential political and legal fallout.
The addition of North Korea to some makes little sense to some observers as North Koreans rarely, if at all, travel to the United States and have not threatened to conduct international acts of terror against the U.S. and its allies. However with the hard-nosed stance Trump has taken in regards to North Korea’s drive to become a nuclear superpower, adding them to the banned list seems like another step in the hard-line “tough-talk” policy that these two leaders, caught up in nuclear brinksmanship, are enjoying.
Yet, why was the Central African country of Chad added to the travel ban list?
The addition of Chad to the list is baffling to some African security experts and observers, however none are more stunned than the Chadian government. In an interview with The Washington Post, director of the Chadian Human Rights Association. Nour Ibedou, stated that “[T]he reaction [to the travel ban] has been astonishment and then indignation.” Ibedou went on by saying, “We do not understand how our country achieved this lack of trust from the United States.”
Chad for years has been the United States main ally in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) within portions of the West and Central African regions. Chad has sent its military to the war-torn country of Somalia to train and assist the U.N.-led African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), made up the majority of military forces within the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) of African Nations fighting the Islamic State-linked terror group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and Northern Nigeria.
Chad even belongs to the U.S. implemented and funded, Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP). And due to this partnership, Chad has formed an intimate working relationship with the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces unit, the Green Berets, along with other U.S. military Special Operations Forces (SOF) who have been conducting Foreign Internal Defense (FID) along with counter-insurgency operations.
Chad also hosts the annual Special Operations influenced training exercise known as Operation Flintlock. So why was the country of Chad who according to the White House, “is an important and valuable counterterrorism partner of the United States, and the United States Government looks forward to expanding that cooperation,” added to the travel ban list?
The explanation the White House gave only adds to the mystery saying:
Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion. Additionally, several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb.”
One look on a map and you can see that Chad is surrounded on five sides with countries suffering from a well established terrorist insurgencies or civil wars. And Chad has been highly successful keeping these insurgencies from gaining a foothold larger than some errant border camps, so the idea that radical extremists are running amok within the borders of Chad is subjective at best.
There is an initial investigation underway that some African nations that actively trade with North Korea may have had a hand in that country’s acquisition of materials needed to further North Korea’s nuclear program. Countries like Uganda, Angola, Mozambique, and even Sudan have already made it to the list as possible proxies in this hypothesis.
Chad did have dealings with a North Korean construction company based in Pyongyang called the Mansudae Overseas Project (MOP) which has designed and built massive monuments and memorials all across Africa. Chad commissioned MOP to build a memorial similar to those built in Senegal and Zambia. However, the payment MOP’s took for its services was that of large land parcels in the northern Chad region that they then could sell off for a profit.
The Mansudae Project is suspected by the United States of being one of the many ‘front’ or dummy corporations being run by North Korea’s Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) who funneled weapons into African nations. Namely a $6.4 million dollar weapons deal with Sudan for enhanced long-range satellite GPS guidance systems to go along with North Korean air-to-ground and ground-to-ground missile batteries.
Interestingly enough, Sudan, who shares a large border with Chad, was removed from Trump’s travel ban in its latest update even though it has overtly conducted business with North Korea due to the country stepping up its efforts in regards to information sharing with the United States.
Little is known as to why Chad was added to the Trump administration’s enhanced travel ban while African countries that are known to not only harbor terrorism but also have trade deals with North Korea were either removed or not even considered. The addition of a country that has long been an ally to the United States seems more like a dart thrown at a map of Africa, than a strategic decision.
Feature image courtesy of: Associated Press