General Michael Langley, the head of US AFRICOM, appeared to admit that the Pentagon’s “core values,” instilled into tens of thousands of African military officers, are compatible with staging coups as he was grilled during a House Armed Services Committee hearing by Republican Matt Gaetz (Florida) on Thursday.
Initially unable to provide a “ballpark” figure for how many US-trained African officers have gone on to stage coups, Langley claimed it was “less than one percent,” crediting the Pentagon’s International Military Education and Training program, which stresses civilian governance and representative democracy.
Gaetz, citing an Intercept article revealing US-trained officers had staged at least eight successful coups in West Africa alone since 2008, asked whether the ‘core values’ instilled in that curriculum were compatible with program graduate Col. Mamady Doumbouya, who overthrew the Guinean government while his unit was in training with US Green Berets in September 2021.
Langley answered in the affirmative, insisting the “core values” of “respect for civilian governance, apolitical” were “what sticks across a very high percentage” of trainees.
“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?” Gaetz asked, questioning why US tax dollars should be spent training African military officers to overthrow their governments. “I think we should at least know how many countries we train the coup plotters in,” he said.
While AFRICOM condemned the Guinea coup as “inconsistent with US military training and education,” other coup plotters disagree. After Amadou Sanogo, a Malian officer trained by the US, overthrew his country’s government in 2012, he credited his American instruction with his success.
“America is a great country with a fantastic army,” he said. “I tried to put all the things I learned there into practice here.”
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Peace Research that analyzed data from 1970 to 2009 found a “robust relationship between US training of foreign militaries and military-backed coup attempts,” despite focusing solely on the civilian-government-centric International Military Education and Training program.
When Captain Ibrahim Traore overthrew Burkina Faso’s government last year, the Pentagon would not say whether he was US-trained (though the leader he overthrew, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, participated in at least half a dozen US training exercises before running his own coup earlier that year). As Langley admitted, they do not keep records of what happens to officers after their training is complete.