Chad, a counterterror ally, still smarting over travel ban

The US came to central African nation of Chad on Monday seeking to strengthen a key counterterrorism partnership with a country that still cannot figure out why the Trump administration seems adamant about keeping its citizens out of the US.
Chadian President Idriss Deby had hoped the visit by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would present an opportunity to put the bitter episode between the two countries behind them.
“The placement of Chad in this list was an injustice done to Chad,” Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene Cherif said. He said Deby had “expressed his incomprehension” to Tillerson about the restrictions.
In President Donald Trump’s most recent set of travel restrictions issued in September, an office supply glitch that prevented Chad from supplying Homeland Security Officials with recent samples of its passports and Chad’s inability to “adequately share public safety and terrorism-related information” with US officials who screen potential visitors seeking visas to enter the US were among the technicalities that landed it on the travel ban list.
At the time, Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Chad could be off the list “maybe in a couple of months.” In December, a US team traveled to Chad to work with local officials on outstanding problems.
And in the months since, the US has repeatedly praised Chad’s efforts to improve its compliance with US requirements, raising the question of why it is still on the list.
But despite the visit by Tillerson — the most senior US official to set foot in Chad — the country will stay on the list, at least for now.
During his brief visit to N’Djamena, Tillerson said he wanted Chadians to know “they are welcome in the United States.” He said the visa restrictions were necessary “because of all the conflict that exists on Chad’s borders.”
Tillerson told Chad’s leaders that the US later this month would prepare a report on Chad’s progress in meeting US security requirements, and that Trump would review the report in April. He gave Chad credit for “many, many important positive steps” to comply.
“These steps I think are going to allow us to begin to normalize the travel relationship with Chad,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We have to wait for the final report.”
Still, that is no reason why the two countries cannot continue working closely together to fight growing threats to Africa’s Sahel region posed by Al-Qaeda affiliates like Boko Haram and the newly designated West Africa wing of Daesh, Tillerson and Chad’s foreign minister said.

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