At the Pentagon, several Defense officials expressed anger that years of close work could be jeopardized by what one characterized as a “casual” process that failed to take into account America’s long-term interests in the region.
Current and former officials at the United States Africa Command, which works closely with the Chadian military to fight Islamic extremists in north and central Africa, said they could not explain the inclusion and referred inquiries to the White House. Carter Ham, a retired general who formerly headed the Africa Command, called the decision to put Chad on the list “puzzling.”
The president’s proclamation said Chad “does not adequately share public safety and terrorism-related information and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion.” Administration officials declined to provide details, but the White House and the Homeland Security Department defended the move.
“This was not a subjective exercise,” said Dave Lapan, a Homeland Security spokesman. “We laid out a very clear baseline of the information we needed from all countries, and all countries were measured equally to determine whether they met that baseline.”
The president’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, acknowledged the disagreement within the administration over banning travel from Chad and raised the possibility that the decision could be reversed. “That list is not fixed,” he told an audience at a Washington conference on Monday. “On Chad, there was a real debate.”
He said that Chad was included because of concerns over sharing of data with American officials, but added that “maybe in a couple of months they can get there” on meeting American requirements.
The development of the travel ban was an intense process that included the departments of State and Homeland Security, the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and the White House, federal officials said. After officials from across the government developed a baseline that established what each country must do to allow travel to the United States, American diplomats worked with other nations to meet the standards.
On a phone call set up by the White House to brief reporters about the ban, a State Department official asserted that the agency was fully engaged in the development of the list. But other officials at both the State Department and the Pentagon disputed that characterization.
“To me, what they…