US Forces Were Training the Guinean Soldiers Who Took Off to Stage a Coup

NAIROBI, Kenya — American Green Berets have been coaching native forces in the West African nation of Guinea final weekend when their costs peeled away for a mission not listed in any navy coaching handbook: They mounted a coup.

Gunfire rang out as an elite Guinean Special Forces unit stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, early Sunday, deposing the nation’s 83-year-old president, Alpha Condé. Hours later a charismatic younger officer, Col. Mamady Doumbouya, introduced himself as Guinea’s new chief.

The Americans knew him nicely.

A staff of about a dozen Green Berets had been in Guinea since mid-July to prepare about 100 troopers in a particular forces unit led by Colonel Doumbouya, who served for years in the French Foreign Legion, took half in American navy workout routines and was as soon as a shut ally of the president he overthrew.

The United States, like the United Nations and the African Union, has condemned the coup, and the U.S. navy has denied having any advance data of it.

For the Pentagon, although, it is a humiliation. The United States has educated troops in lots of African nations, largely for counterterrorism packages but in addition with the broad intention of supporting civilian-led governments.

And though quite a few U.S.-trained officers have seized energy of their international locations — most notably, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt — that is believed to be the first time one has accomplished so in the center of an American navy course.

On Sunday, as soon as the Green Berets realized a coup was underway, they drove straight to the United States Embassy in Conakry, and the coaching program was suspended, mentioned Kelly Cahalan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Africa Command. The coup, she mentioned, is “inconsistent with U.S. military training and education.”

American officers searching for to downplay the episode initially confused that the base the place the coaching befell was in Forécariah, a four-hour drive from the presidential palace, shut to Guinea’s border with Sierra Leone.

SENEGAL

WEST AFRICA

GUINEA

BENIN

GHANA

NIGERIA

IVORY

COAST

LIBERIA

200 miles

MALI

GUINEA

Conakry

Niger

River

Forécariah

SIERRA

LEONE

Atlantic

Ocean

LIBERIA

100 miles

By The New York Times

But on Friday, U.S. officers mentioned they have been investigating stories that Colonel Doumbouya and his fellow coup-makers had set off in an armed convoy from that very same base early on Sunday — elevating the prospect that they slipped away whereas their instructors have been sleeping.

Col. Mamady Doumbouya, middle,  after a assembly with a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States on Friday in Conakry.Credit…Sunday Alamba/Associated Press

“We do not have any information on how the apparent military seizure of power occurred, and had no prior indication of these events,” Bardha S. Azari, additionally a spokeswoman for the U.S. Africa Command, mentioned in an e mail.

The coup in Guinea, the fourth navy takeover in West Africa in 12 months, following two coups in Mali and a disputed succession in Chad, fueled worries of democratic backsliding in a coup-prone area of Africa.

The discomfort of U.S. officers over their proximity to the coup plotters was made worse by video footage circulating in latest days that confirmed smiling American navy officers in a crowd of joyous Guineans on Sept. 5, the day of the coup.

As a four-wheel-drive automobile with Guinean troopers perched on the again pushes by the crowd chanting “Freedom,” one American seems to contact arms with cheering individuals.

“If the Americans are involved in the putsch, it’s because of their mining interests,” mentioned Diapharou Baldé, a trainer in Conakry — a reference to Guinea’s enormous deposits of gold, iron ore and bauxite, which is used to make aluminum.

American officers confirmed that the video confirmed Green Berets returning to the U.S. Embassy on Sunday, however denied it implied assist for the coup. “The U.S. government and military are not involved in this apparent military seizure of power in any way,” Ms. Azari, the spokeswoman, mentioned.

VideoA video verified by The Times reveals automobiles with American Green Berets driving by a jubilant crowd close to the U.S. Embassy in Conakry, the Guinean capital, on Sept. 5, after a navy coup unseated the president. The clip circulated broadly on social media, and a few Guineans interpreted the photos as tacit American assist for the coup, which the U.S. authorities has condemned.

For many Guineans, the Americans’ cameo position in the coup was only one aspect in a week of dizzying change pushed by Colonel Doumbouya, 41, now the second-youngest chief of an African state.

The youngest is in neighboring Mali, the place Col. Assimi Goïta got here to energy solely in May, additionally following a coup.

After an hourlong gun battle outdoors the presidential palace on Sunday wherein not less than 11 individuals have been killed, Guinean and Western officers mentioned, Colonel Doumbouya appeared on state tv carrying sun shades and draped in Guinea’s tricolor flag.

He mentioned he had been pressured to seize energy due to the actions of President Condé, a one-time democracy campaigner elected president in 2010 after an earlier coup paved the method for elections.

But Mr. Condé’s legitimacy slumped final yr after he amended the structure to allow him to search a third time period, which he received. After the election, over 400 political opponents have been forged into Guinea’s squalid prisons, the place not less than 4 died, Amnesty International mentioned.

Footage that circulated after the coup confirmed a raveled Mr. Condé, surrounded by troopers, slouched on a couch and searching dejected. Colonel Doumbouya has refused to say the place he’s being held, although envoys from West Africa’s fundamental political and financial bloc met with Mr. Condé on Friday and mentioned he was in good well being.

The president has been ousted by an officer whose profession he as soon as blessed.

Colonel Doumbouya shot to public consideration in October 2018 throughout celebrations for Guinea’s 60th anniversary of independence, when he paraded the nation’s newly shaped Special Forces unit by central Conakry. Images of the parade went viral on Guinean social media.

“People were very impressed by the choreography of the soldiers, and synchronized movement of their vehicles,” mentioned Issaka Ok. Souaré, director of the Sahel and West Africa program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Mr. Condé, in a 2018 interview, lavished reward on the younger officer — a fellow member of the Malinke tribe. Colonel Doumbouya, as a French Legionnaire, served in Afghanistan and Ivory Coast and accomplished a commando coaching course in Israel, in accordance to his official biography.

Married to a French navy police officer, he’s additionally a French citizen and graduated in protection research from a college in Paris.

Although public disaffection with Mr. Condé laid the floor for the coup, it was additionally fueled by smoldering rivalries inside Guinea’s protection institution, a Western official and an analyst, who couldn’t be recognized due to the sensitivity of the matter, mentioned.

They mentioned that tensions grew between Colonel Doumbouya and Guinea’s protection minister, Mohamed Diané. Fearing a putsch in the capital, Mr. Diané moved the Special Forces unit to the base in Forécariah.

Colonel Doumbouya complained publicly that his unit was being starved of sources.

American officers have recognized Colonel Doumbouya since the begin of his rise. A photograph posted to the U.S. Embassy Facebook web page from October 2018 confirmed him standing with three American navy officers outdoors the U.S. Embassy.

Col. Mamady Doumbouya, middle, in a Facebook publish from Oct. 15, 2018, put up by the U.S. Embassy.

But on Friday American officers mentioned they have been puzzled why he would select to mount a coup at a second when he was working intently with Americans.

It’s not the first time that coups in Africa have forged a shadow over American coaching packages on the continent. As insurgents surged throughout Mali’s northern desert in 2012, United States-trained commanders of the nation’s elite military models defected at a vital time, taking troops, vehicles, weapons and their newfound expertise to the enemy.

Declan Walsh reported from Nairobi, Kenya, and Eric Schmitt reported from Washington. Abdourahmane Diallo contributed reporting from Conakry, Guinea, and Christiaan Triebert from New York.