Chad has called on the U.S. government to reverse its decision to include the country on its revised travel ban list. The inclusion of Chad, a key counterterrorism partner for the U.S. in the fight against Boko Haram and ISIS, has confounded experts and former policymakers alike who say the country appears no more dangerous than others in the region and is vital to American interests.
“From my perspective it makes absolutely no sense,” former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria during George W. Bush’s administration, John Campbell, told VICE News. “It just doesn’t added up.”
“The reasons that have been advanced to me are not credible,” Campbell added.
When asked why Chad was added to the list, the Department of Homeland Security told VICE News that Chad didn’t comply with the baseline requirements, and referred to Trump’s Presidential Proclamation, which states that “Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion.” It’s unclear which risk criteria Chad didn’t satisfy.
But Ambassador Campbell offered an explanation, denouncing the idea that Chad is any more of a security threat than its neighbors. Rather, Chad is among the poorest countries in the world and therefore might’ve merely lacked the capacity to meet all the necessary requirements demanded by the U.S.
The reasons given by the Department of Homeland Security didn’t sit well with other experts either. “There are a lot of countries that could be on that list,” Thomas Sanderson, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Transnational Threats Project, told VICE News, adding that he was equally taken aback by the decision to add Chad.
“There’s no way that every other country could have complied,” Sanderson said. “I think Chad was just an easy target because they don’t have the political weight in Washington that countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia do.”
But DHS told VICE News that every country around the world had been vetted by the same measurements, and “those not on the list meet the requirements.”
“[All] countries were measured against the same baseline, so they were all sanctioned in accordance with their failure to meet that baseline,” Dave Lapan, a DHS spokesperson, told VICE News by email. “Countries that met the requirements – and in some cases they didn’t initially but then raised the bar – don’t face restrictions. Countries that fail, regardless of the number of nationals who travel to the U.S., do.”
This justification would mean Pakistan was a complier. And yet the Trump administration recently threatened to sanction Pakistan if it didn’t deal with its terrorist safe havens.
Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at Brookings Institute, said the government may have classified information that rendered Chad more of a national security threat than we might think, though countries like Burkina Faso and Niger were seemingly equally as dangerous.
“It’s not at all obvious that Chad is at all more threatening than other places,” Brown said, adding she was shocked that DHS said everyone omitted from the list had complied. That said, without specifics on the criteria, it’s difficult to judge.
“It’s possible that there is classified intelligence that we’re not privy to,” Brown added.
President Trump’s extended travel ban, released Sunday, includes two other new countries: North Korea and Venezuela. Sudan, which was previously on the list, has been removed – raising hopes the Trump administration will also remove wider economic sanctions on the country.