Recent revelations have shed light on the United States’ training of at least five members of Niger’s new ruling junta, known as the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland.
This development has sparked a broader conversation about the intricate balance between promoting democratic values and advancing strategic interests in the realm of international relations.
The Nigerien junta came to power on July 26, seizing control and detaining the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum. Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who attended an International Counterterrorism Fellows Program in Washington, D.C., proclaimed himself the new leader.
However, Bazoum remains under virtual house arrest, a situation that has drawn attention and concern from US officials, including US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.The ties between the US and the junta have raised questions, particularly given the historical context.
Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks revealed that a Lt. Cl. Abdourahmane Tiani, now part of the junta, attended a yearlong International Counterterrorism Fellows Program at the National Defense University from 2009 to 2010. This connection underscores the complexity of the situation, as US-trained military personnel assume positions of power in foreign governments.
Notably, The Intercept’s findings prompted a pause in security assistance to the Nigerien military-led government, even as the US looks to increase aid to Burkina Faso, a nation ruled by a military officer who seized power in a 2022 coup. This contrast highlights the challenges inherent in navigating the often conflicting priorities of foreign policy.
The United States’ involvement with countries following military coups has been a subject of scrutiny. While US law generally restricts countries from receiving military aid after a coup, exceptions have raised concerns.
Balancing Strategy and Ethics
Mali, for instance, has continued to receive security assistance despite the military’s involvement in governance and alleged civilian casualties. Burkina Faso, another recipient of US aid, experienced a coup in 2022, further fueling the debate about the effectiveness and ethical implications of security assistance.
Elias Yousif, a research analyst with the Stimson Center’s Conventional Defense Program, expressed reservations about the broad use of security assistance in sub-Saharan Africa. He highlighted the risk of implicating the United States in human rights abuses and the behavior of local security partners.
The evolving situation in the Sahel region serves as a cautionary tale, marked by coups and deteriorating security conditions. The issue extends beyond specific instances to the broader approach to foreign policy.
Experts argue that focusing on building foreign military capacity, without comprehensive investment in humanitarian aid, civil society, and democratic institutions, can have counterproductive outcomes.
The effectiveness of such training has been called into question, citing examples from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, where US-backed efforts have faced significant challenges.
As the Biden administration grapples with its approach to countries in West Africa and beyond, the training of junta members in Niger serves as a reminder of the complexities involved in balancing strategic interests and upholding democratic values.
The ongoing debate underscores the need for a comprehensive and nuanced approach to foreign policy that considers both short-term goals and long-term stability.
Source: The Intercept