Pentagon’s International Military Education and Training program: Well, it seems like the US has been putting its nose in African politics for so long that it might as well have a permanent residency there! With the earliest foreign military interventions and the CIA’s alleged government toppling skills, it’s no surprise that the US has become quite the expert in meddling. But, let’s take a break from the rumors and hearsay, as we finally have a confession straight from the horse’s mouth – or rather, from the US itself.
US General’s shocking admission
As per a recent report, General Michael Langley, the head of the US AFRICOM, appeared to have admitted that the Pentagon’s “core values,” which have been instilled into tens of thousands of African military officers, are compatible with staging coups. The general made this confession during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday while being grilled by Republican Matt Gaetz (Florida).
Initially, Langley was unable to estimate how many US-trained African officers had gone on to stage coups, but he claimed that it was “less than one percent” and credited the Pentagon’s International Military Education and Training program.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Peace Research analyzed data from 1970 to 2009 and found a “robust relationship between US training of foreign militaries and military-backed coup attempts,” despite focusing solely on the civilian-government-centric Pentagon’s International Military Education and Training program.
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An Intercept article revealed that US-trained officers had staged at least eight successful coups in West Africa alone since 2008. While citing the article Gaetz asked Langley whether the ‘core values’ instilled in that curriculum were compatible with program graduate Col. Mamady Doumbouya, who overthrew the Guinean government while his unit was in training with US Green Berets in September 2021. Langley affirmed that the “core values” of “respect for civilian governance, apolitical” were what most trainees retain, despite being questioned by Gaetz.
Furthermore, after Amadou Sanogo, a Malian officer trained by the US, overthrew his country’s government in 2012, he also attributed his success to his American training. The Pentagon has not commented on whether Captain Ibrahim Traore, who overthrew Burkina Faso’s government last year, was trained by the US or not. However, the leader he ousted, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, had participated in at least six US training exercises before staging his own coup earlier that year. As Langley admitted, the US military does not keep records of what happens to officers after they complete their training.
US training Africa’s coup leaders
The confession from the head of the US AFRICOM is a significant development, especially given the West’s growing desperation to project itself as a reliable partner for Africa’s development. However, the US’s actions paint an entirely different picture.
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The US has previously admitted that coup leaders have received training in the country. For example, the leader of a military coup in Mali received military training in the US on several occasions. Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led a renegade military faction and deposed Mali’s democratically elected president, visited the US several times for professional military education, including basic officer training. Similarly, coups have been staged in Guinea and Burkina Faso.
Political instability has cost the African continent dearly, despite being blessed with abundant natural resources. Africa’s economic backwardness is primarily due to prolonged political instability, coups, and crises. The admission of the US’s role in staging some of these coups is an eye-opener, and it only confirms reports that have suggested the US may have been behind orchestrating coups in African countries.
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The issue of military coups has been a longstanding concern in Africa since the decades following independence, and there are growing fears that they are returning to the continent. In 2021, there were four successful military takeovers in Chad, Mali, Guinea, and Sudan, which is up from one in 2020.
Reports suggest that the US, under the guise of promoting a commitment to democracy, has been training coup leaders. From 2020 to 2022, at least four West African governments have been overthrown by US-trained officers. Furthermore, there are indications that other graduates have also undermined civilian governments in other parts of the continent. However, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has not been able to explain why there has been a surge of coups.
The US has trained thousands of African soldiers, from infantrymen rehearsing counterterrorism raids on the edge of the Sahara to senior commanders attending the US Military Academy at West Point. These programs are a central aspect of US policy on the continent.
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Indeed, General Langley’s admission brings into question the true intentions of the Pentagon’s International Military Education and Training program in Africa. While the US claims that these programs are aimed at promoting democracy and stability, the fact that some of the trained officers have gone on to stage coups raises doubts about the effectiveness and sincerity of these efforts.
Furthermore, the US’s denial of any responsibility for the actions of these officers is concerning. If the US is going to train African military officers, they should at least make sure they’re not teaching them how to stage a coup d’état 101.
Read More: West Africa used to be the Global HQ of political coups. Well not anymore!
Moving forward, African leaders need to be vigilant about who they cozy up to and ensure that they’re not just exchanging their sovereignty for empty promises. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
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