Friday, March 29, 2024

Pentagon Ignores Law on Training African Coup Leaders | TOME


Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is demanding answers from the Pentagon regarding coups carried out by U.S.-trained African military officers. The congressman’s letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, shared exclusively with The Intercept, highlights the need for transparency and accountability in the Defense Department’s foreign military assistance program.

The Pentagon is required, under the bill authorizing the 2024 defense budget, to provide a briefing on coups by U.S.-trained African partners to the Senate and House Armed Services committees within 90 days of the bill’s passage in December 2023. This briefing should cover the number of coups, the vetting process for partners, and steps taken to reinforce trainees’ respect for civilian control of the military.

During a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing, Gaetz questioned Gen. Michael Langley, head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), about the delayed briefing. Langley assured Gaetz that he would receive the necessary information. However, days later, the House Armed Services Committee is still awaiting the briefing, prompting Gaetz to criticize the Defense Department for its inaction.

In his letter to the Defense Department, Gaetz expressed disappointment in the failure to meet the congressionally mandated deadline and formally requested the briefing or report on security cooperation with African military units that received training and equipment from the DoD and subsequently overthrew their governments within AFRICOM’s area of responsibility.

The issue of U.S.-trained African military officers being involved in coups is not new. Reports indicate that at least 15 officers who benefited from U.S. security assistance have been linked to 12 coups in West Africa and the greater Sahel region during the war on terror. Countries affected include Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Egypt.

Despite concerns raised by lawmakers like Gaetz, the State Department, responsible for tracking data on U.S. trainees, has been unable or unwilling to provide comprehensive information on the extent of U.S.-trained individuals involved in coups across Africa since 9/11. This lack of transparency raises questions about the effectiveness of vetting processes and oversight mechanisms in place.

In a recent exchange with Gen. Langley, Gaetz pressed for information on the percentage of U.S.-trained troops involved in coups, highlighting the need for accountability and data-driven decision-making. While Langley denied any correlation between U.S. training and coup activities, questions remain about how such conclusions are reached without comprehensive data collection.

The Pentagon’s failure to comply with the legal requirement for a report on U.S.-trained African coup leaders underscores the importance of congressional oversight and accountability in foreign military assistance programs. As lawmakers continue to push for transparency and information sharing, it is essential for the Defense Department to uphold its obligations and provide timely and accurate briefings to Congress.

In conclusion, Rep. Matt Gaetz’s efforts to hold the Pentagon accountable for its role in training African military officers involved in coups highlight the need for increased transparency and oversight in U.S. foreign military assistance programs. By demanding answers and pushing for compliance with legal mandates, lawmakers aim to ensure that taxpayer-funded training programs align with democratic values and respect for civilian authority within partner nations.

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