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Why Is Chad On Trump's Travel Ban List?

Sep 27, 2017
Originally published on September 27, 2017 10:48 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Why Chad? That's a question that's been on a lot of people's lips this week. The oil-producing Sahara desert country has been added to the expanded White House travel ban list. That's despite the fact that Chad is seen as a key counterterrorism ally. Meanwhile, Chad's neighbor, Sudan, which is a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terror, has been taken off the list. Now, the Trump administration says this all follows a review that concluded Chad failed to share terrorism-related intelligence. So business and tourist visas for Chadians will be suspended. That's going to start on October 18. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is on the line now to tell us a bit more about what is going on here. Hey there, Ofeibea.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.

KELLY: Greetings. So what is the reaction from Chad to being added to the travel ban?

QUIST-ARCTON: To be honest, Mary Louise, Chad is totally puzzled and baffled by President Trump's decision to slap this ban on Chadian nationals. The communications minister - and I quote - Madeleine Alingue has said "this move contrasts with Chad's constant efforts and commitment in the fight against terrorism at the regional and global level." She also said the Chadian government calls for a better appreciation and understanding of the situation and invites President Trump to reconsider his decision and that Chad remains available for any discussions. But the government doesn't want to be forced to use the principle of reciprocity, which could undermine interests of the two countries.

KELLY: What does that mean, the principle of reciprocity? Is that a little threat there?

QUIST-ARCTON: Chad is not happy. Chad is not happy because it feels that it has done its utmost in the fight against terrorism and the fight against extremist violence in the region, in the Sahel, Boko Haram, for example. The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria that has spilled over the borders into Cameroon, Chad, Niger and also in Mali, where battle-hardened Chadian soldiers were instrumental in being able to push out the extremists who had occupied the north, including Timbukti (ph). So there's consternation in Chad.

KELLY: So it sounds like the risk here is that in slapping the travel ban on Chad, it possibly could alienate what the U.S., what the White House, has acknowledged has been a valuable partner in counterterrorism.

QUIST-ARCTON: Indeed. The White House has said that Chad has been good as a counterterrorism ally, but, you know, what we don't understand is that the U.S. military held this year's Flintlock counter-terrorism exercises with regional African armies in Chad in the capital, in N'Djamena. I was there, covered it for NPR. And now U.S. retired - retired U.S. General Bolduc was there. I met the U.S. ambassador, who talked enthusiastically about diplomatic relations with Chad. So why now, and why is Sudan not on the list anymore?

KELLY: And that is a question I'm sure that you're hearing from people in Chad as well as they were taken by surprise by this. Just one more quick point, which is the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, as we know who used to run ExxonMobil. Chad sells a lot of crude oil to the U.S. Is oil politics at all a factor in what's going on here?

QUIST-ARCTON: And that's being asked, is this an arm twister, because not so long ago, Chad tried to slap a huge fine on ExxonMobil, but that didn't happen. So why is Chad on this list of banned nations?

KELLY: All right, a question there that we'll have to wait for coming days and weeks to hear answered. That's NPR's Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. She was joining us from Accra in Ghana. Thank you so much, Ofeibea.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure, Mary Louise. Thank you.

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