A military coup that took place in the West African nation of Mali on Thursday was led by a captain in the Malian army who received military training in the United States, according to reports.
Capt. Amadou Sanoga, an apparent leader of the soldiers that toppled the government of President Amadou Toumani Toure, "participated in several U.S.-funded International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs in the United States, including basic officer training," the U.S. military's Africa Command said in an email to McClatchy newspapers.
Observers of the US counterterrorism program in Africa, however, say that a coup in Mali was predictable blowback and warned against misguided military assistance. 'Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara' is the principle US military program in this region, coordinated by the US African Command known as AFRICOM.
In video footage that first appeared on state television, Captian Amadou Haya Sanogo, appeared on Malian TV to announce an immediate curfew after the coup on Thursday.
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It was not immediately known which training courses Sanoga had participated in. The IMET programs can include a wide range of activities, including human rights training and study at one of the U.S. military's war colleges.
Whether U.S. officials have been in touch with Sanoga, who declared himself the head of the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and the State, since the coup also was unknown. In an email, State Department African affairs spokeswoman Hilary Renner said only that U.S. diplomats in Mali's capital, Bamako, are "seeking to contact the mutiny leaders to express the U.S. and international position that the civilian elected government must be fully restored without delay."
Sanoga's U.S. ties complicate what was already an inconvenient development in the regional counterterrorism strategy for the United States, which now will have to decide how to deal with a military junta that it's vowed to reject in a country that's a significant front in the war against terror.
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From the Cross Crocodiles blog, which follows US military affairs in Africa: Coup In Mali – AFRICOM’s Train & Equip Triumphs Over Democracy
The coup in Mali arises partly from the blowback following the NATO destruction of Libya, part of the counter revolution against the Arab Spring, and from the train and equip activities AFRICOM has been conducting in Mali for much of this century. Train and equip laid the groundwork; the return from the ruins of Libya of militant and well armed Tuareg rebels provided the trigger. I wrote about the AFRICOM threat to Malian democracy back in 2009, US Policy Versus Democracy In Mali. [...]
Based on the accounts so far, it appears the coup may not even have been planned, it may have been spontaneous, arising from an argument between the military and the government at a meeting to discuss the handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the north. However, the groundwork for a coup was all in place, including the education of its leader:
The green-beret mid-ranking captain, [Captain Amadou Sanogo] who speaks with a raspy voice, also revealed he had spent much time at training programmes in the United States, in Georgia and at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia.
He said he was trained under a US scholarship as an English instructor
And from another source:
Sanogo, who said he had received “training from U.S. Marines and intelligence”, said, he would not remain in power but refused to give a timeframe for restoring civilian rule.
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The report from McClatchy also adds:
"Mali is what many consider the poster child for democracy in West Africa. It is also an aid darling. What are all these donor countries going to do? It's completely unclear," said Benjamin Soares, a Mali expert at the African Studies Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.
"Of course, there is a long history of coups in the region. Western donors usually say they won't deal with these governments, but they almost always eventually do so," Soares said.
The U.S. military has supported the Mali military extensively over the past decade, and the country has become a significant partner in the U.S. efforts to curb North Africa's shadowy al Qaida affiliate, al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.
In addition to its involvement in the International Military Education and Training program, Mali has also participated in the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership, which is intended to strengthen bilateral military ties with the U.S. and supports counterterrorism coordination across the region's different militaries. Mali also recently hosted U.S. soldiers in a joint logistical exercise named Atlas Accord 12.
"We have regularly had small teams traveling in and out of Mali to conduct specific training that has been requested by the Malian government and military," said Nicole Dalrymple, a spokeswoman for the Africa Command, known as Africom, in an emailed response to questions.
Renner said in her email that the U.S. government "provided almost $138 million dollars in foreign assistance for Mali." Most of that money went to development assistance and global health programs. About $600,000 was allocated for military training. The overall allocation had been expected to rise this year to about $144 million, Renner said.
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