Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has greatly increased its training of foreign security forces. Several countries now receiving training were prohibited from such training prior to 9-11 because of poor human rights records. For example, the effective ban on U.S. training for militaries in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Tajikistan and Pakistan has been lifted even though the State Department’s annual report on human rights practices lists these countries as having “poor” human rights records. In addition, foreign militaries receiving U.S. training have in some cases used child soldiers or worked closely with paramilitary forces or armed groups that utilize child soldiers. Examples include Angola, Burundi, Colombia and Uganda.
The U.S. justifies much of its training on the grounds that training helps professionalize these forces, and maintains that through “professionalization” and contact with U.S. soldiers, human rights practices will improve. Yet, this hypothesis has never been tested because there is no systematic way to monitor or track the record of those soldiers who do receive U.S. training.
Given this situation, several organizations – including the Africa Faith and Justice Network, Amnesty International USA, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, and School of the Americas Watch – monitor the human rights situation in various countries and advocate for change in U.S. policy in relation to training foreign military forces. These organizations seek changes by which the U.S. would (1) discontinue training to countries with militaries that use child soldiers; (2) mainstream effective human rights and humanitarian law education into all foreign security force training, and (3) establish a joint Departments of Defense and State database of U.S.-trained foreign security force personnel.
Securing tyrants or fostering reform? U.S. internal security assistance to repressive and transitioning regimes, a report from the RAND corporation