The strategic Lake Chad Basin region is a nexus for illicit arms trafficking by local Al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates, Boko Haram, and other violent extremist organizations. Recently, a team from the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (WRA) visited Chad to oversee the implementation of WRA-funded physical security and stockpile management projects conducted in cooperation with the Chadian government and Mines Advisory Group (MAG). These projects, especially those which destroy stockpiles of excess weapons and ammunition, have become an important tool for stopping illicit diversions of weapons to violent extremist organizations, preventing accidental weapons depot explosions, and mitigating internal armed conflict.
As part of U.S.-Chad efforts to counter Boko Haram and other criminal and terrorist organizations, the Department of State, through its implementing partner MAG, has built and refurbished weapons storage facilities throughout the country. These facilities have bolstered Chad’s efforts to secure weapons held by government security forces and to ensure the safety of local communities surrounding these facilities. In addition to supporting physical security infrastructure, since 2015 U.S. government-funded projects have trained 215 Chadian security professionals to conduct independent physical security and stockpile management projects. The Government of Chad supports this effort at the national level, and Chadian security forces are committed to the effective and responsible management of their stockpiles of weapons and ammunition through their continued efforts to train and develop their workforce.
In N’Djamena, Christopher Murguia, Northern Africa Program Manager, and Michael Tirre, Assistant Program Manager, met with Chad’s Special Anti-terrorism Group (SATG) to reinforce the longstanding and productive partnership between the SATG and the United States. Murguia and Tirre also visited local ammunition storage facilities to review their condition. The team met with military officials from the General Directorate of Strategic Reserves (DGRS), which distributes small arms and light weapons and ammunition for Chadian security forces. Accompanied by DGRS personnel, Murguia and Tirre also observed the destruction of small arms at a MAG operating site; in 2018, MAG destroyed more than 650 pieces of excess and obsolete small arms and light weapons eliminating the risk of these weapons falling into the wrong hands.
Since 2004, MAG has been an instrumental implementing partner in physical security and stockpile management projects and humanitarian mine action activities in Chad. With U.S. support, MAG continues to operate in the most essential locations to effectively reduce threats from illicit weapons proliferation. “The Chadian security forces are implementing the weapons management training that they learned from MAG, and they are properly storing weapons and ammunition according to international best practices,” says Assistant Program Manager Michael Tirre. He adds, “It’s a great feeling to know that the weapons are secure, and that the people of the Lake Chad Basin region will be safer as a result.”
The United States has invested over $13.6 million in Chad since 1995 for the destruction of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition, physical security and stockpile management, landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance, and technical surveys and assessments, which are used to gain a better understanding of the problem and where best to apply limited U.S. government assistance. Ongoing U.S. support helps to save lives on a daily basis and sets the foundation for a stable and prosperous Chad.
To learn more about the United States’ global conventional weapons destruction efforts, check out our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, and follow us on Twitter @StateDeptPM. You may also follow Mines Advisory Group @MAGsaveslives.
About the Author: Samantha Golden is a Frasure-Kruzel-Drew Memorial Fellow in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs' Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.