In a heated exchange on Thursday, Congressman Matt Gaetz grilled the Commander of U.S. Africa Command, General Michael Langley over taxpayers’ dollars being spent on training coup leaders in Africa. The exchange served as a revelation of one alarming aspect of a much larger foreign policy failure on the continent.
Over the last two decades, U.S. foreign policy in Africa has been an utter failure as terrorism and instability have increased dramatically alongside U.S. intervention. In fact, several U.S. trained African soldiers have led attempts to overthrow civilian led governments. A number of them have been successful.
Since 2005, the United States has injected billions of dollars into Africa for counterterrorism operations including airstrikes, raids, and training of at least 50 thousand African soldiers. In that same time frame, terrorist attacks and terrorist organizations have increased dramatically.
As of 2022, there were approximately 18 Islamic terrorist groups in Africa, which is a 260% increase from 2010. In 2021, there were as many as 4,800 deaths reported as the result of terrorism in the Sahel region, representing a 180% increase from two years prior, according to the Pentagon’s Africa Center.
This isn’t to definitively say that the increase in terrorism is a result of U.S. intervention. There is no way to determine that by correlation alone. What the correlation does tell us with absolute certainty, is that the U.S. Government has completely failed to reduce terrorism in Africa.
Meanwhile, civil stability has been in stark decline with coup d’é·tats becoming the political norm in many West African countries. And many of those coups have been led by US trained military officers. Mali and Burkina Faso have each experienced 3 coup attempts by soldiers who participated in US training programs.
In January of 2022, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba staged a coup d’é·tat in Burkina Faso, deposing the duly elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. Damiba is a highly trained soldier who has, according to U.S Africa Command, participated in no less than 6 U.S training exercises.
Mamady Doumbouya is another highly trained African soldier who led a Guinean special forces unit that began training with the United States Green Berets just months before storming the presidential palace and overthrowing the country’s president, Alpha Condé in September of 2021.
General Langley acknowledged in yesterday’s hearing that both Damiba and Doubouya were in fact trained by the U.S. Military, but assured us that they teach the soldiers core values including democracy, and that only around one percent of the 50 thousand soldiers they have trained with our tax dollars have participated in attempted coups. According to him, we have nothing to worry about. Afterall, we’re teaching them about democracy and only 500 of them have utilized our training to participate in military coup d’é·tats.
500 is far too many, let alone one. And at least two coups attempted by U.S. trained soldiers have been successful. If our goal in Africa is to promote freedom and democracy, we are failing miserably.
If the United States Government doesn’t get their act together, chaos on the continent will only increase, providing bad actors such as the CCP with the perfect opportunity to intervene, promoting tyranny and autocracy rather than freedom and democracy.
After nearly 20 years, U.S. foreign policy in Africa has failed to reduce terrorism and it has failed to promote freedom. Are we just going to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the outcome to improve? Or are we going to respond with sanity, understanding that what we have been doing has not been working and then change our strategy? I certainly hope that it’s the ladder. Otherwise, terrorism and instability will only continue to grow in Africa, and there will be no doubt left that our leaders have gone completely insane.
TRANSCRIPT: U.S. AFRICOM Leader Admits to Congressman Gaetz, Coup Leaders “Share Core Values” with U.S. Military
Rep. Gaetz: General Langley, I have constituents that have been scattered across Africa on train and equip missions, so just ballpark in the last decade how many Africans has the United States military trained and equipped?
General Langley: Congressman I don’t have that figure. I can get that figure for you.
Rep. Gaetz: Ballpark. Just you know, how many?
General Langley: Congressman it would be a wild guess.
Rep. Gaetz: Seems like something we should know, right?
General Langley: Over the years, we have trained a substantial number, especially in the Gulf of Guinea states, but then–
Rep. Gaetz: More than 10,000? It is more than 10,000. More than 50,000?
General Langley: I’d say we’re reaching around 50,000 at least.
Rep. Gaetz: What percentage of the people we’ve trained end up participating in insurrections or coups against their own government?
General Langley: Very small number, Congressman. Very small number.
Rep. Gaetz: What percentage do you think?
General Langley: I’d say probably less than 1%.
Rep. Gaetz: But it does happen?
General Langley: The IMET program is in force and we’ve pushed a significant number through our schools across the-
Rep. Gaetz: And what data sets do you track to arrive at the conclusion that less than 1% of the roughly 50,000 that we’ve trained have participated in coups? Because it would be about 500? About 1% of 50,000?
General Langley: Congressman, we may have that information. I don’t at this time.
Rep. Gaetz: But I know there’s some right? Go ahead and through up that image. This is Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, and this is a photo of him. Did we train and equip him? In Guinea?
General Langley: By name I cannot identify that.
Rep. Gaetz: Well that guy in the middle with the Big Red Hat, that’s him with a bunch of U.S. service members outside of our embassy, and just months after this photo was taken in 2021, he led a coup in Guinea and threw out the leader. Does that concern you?
General Langley: Congressman, core values is what we start off with in IMA programs and we stick to that.
Rep. Gaetz: Do we share core values with Colonel Doumbouya?
General Langley: Core values. I will repeat that. Core values. Respect for–
Rep. Gaetz: Do we share those values with Colonel Doumbouya?
General Langley: Absolutely.
Rep. Gaetz: We do? He led a coup.
General Langley: In our curriculum, we do.
Rep. Gaetz: Okay, well, that’s a very telling answer. In Burkina Faso, did we share core values with the leader that we trained there who led a coup?
General Langley: It’s in our curriculum–
Rep. Gaetz: Leading coups is in our cirriculum?
General Langley: –We stress core values, requests civilian led governance.
Rep. Gaetz: Wait, hold on, is leading coups in our curriculum?
General Langley: Absolutely not. Civilian lead–
Rep. Gaetz: My question is do we share core values with the coup leader in Burkina Faso who we trained?
General Langley: Holistically, we teach whole core values with respect for civilian governance, apolitical, and that’s what sticks across a very high percentage.
Rep. Gaetz: But not everybody. I wonder how many people it takes to to plan a coup? I mean, initially, you didn’t know how many we trained and equipped. Then you said it was 1%. You had no basis for that 1% number because there’s no data set you track. Mr. Chairman, I seek unanimous consent to enter into the record “Another US trained stole soldier stages a coup in West Africa” by The Intercept.
Chairman Rogers: Without objection, so ordered.
Rep. Gaetz: And I further seek unanimous consent to enter into the record “U.S. forces trained the Guinean colonel behind the recent coup in West African country,” and this is regard to Guinea.
Chairman Rogers: Without objection, so ordered.
Rep. Gaetz: So I guess the question is, why should US taxpayers be paying to train people who then lead coups in Africa?
General Langley: Congressman, our curriculum harvests core values and also to be able to embolden these countries for a representative democracy.
Rep. Gaetz: But general, that democracy isn’t what emerges. The problem is, I know you may have great confidence in what you’re teaching, but when two governments had been overthrown – I guess how many governments have to be overthrown by people we train before you sort of get the message that our core values might not be sticking with everyone? Is it five countries? Ten?
General Langley: We’ll continue with our persistence in assuring that they harbor democratic norms, democratic values, apolitical.
Rep. Gaetz: Just a moment ago you said we shared core values with Colonel Doumbouya. You said that just moments ago in response to my question, and his core value seems to be leading a coup. So I don’t think it has stuck. I think we should at least know how many countries we train the coup plotters in, how many is too man. Because clearly two is not too many and I think we could use our resources far more effectively than doing this.