The Pentagon has abruptly abandoned plans to train alongside the militaries of several countries either involved in the overthrow of democratic governments or accused of human rights violations, reversing course amid recent scrutiny.
The plans, disclosed to Congress in October and reviewed by The Washington Post, detailed the Pentagon’s intent to hold joint exercises this year with Sudan, Niger, Mali and other troubled African nations. Each is broadly prohibited under U.S. law from receiving American security assistance.
The documents, which have not been made public, account for millions of dollars in projected government spending. They revealed anticipated and ongoing partnerships with scores of foreign militaries, including about a dozen that have been condemned by the Biden administration and other governments for participating in coups or committing grave abuses, including extrajudicial killings and mass rape.
When pressed to explain why it partners with such countries, the Defense Department told The Post that at least six of the abusive militaries — those from Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger and Sudan — were no longer slated to participate in the exercises. It is unclear whether the Pentagon also will sever plans to train with other countries that have experienced military coups or whose human rights records clash with President Biden’s stated commitment to advance human rights and democratic ideals.
One defense official, who like some others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation, said the U.S. military “never had an intention” to train with countries facing restrictions. A second defense official characterized the list submitted to Congress as fluid, saying it is possible other countries’ participation could be canceled, too.
The about-face appears driven, at least in part, by criticism from members of Biden’s own political party who, upon learning of the Pentagon’s plans, implored the administration to change course immediately. It’s the latest instance of fellow Democrats challenging aspects of the president’s foreign policy, having questioned his administration’s steadfast support for Israel amid soaring civilian casualties in Gaza and whether he has the authority to wage a new military campaign targeting militants in Yemen. [Continue reading…]