The Pentagon’s top spokesman has confirmed that at least seven Colombians implicated in the assassination of Haiti’s president had received US training in the past, but denied it might have somehow “encouraged” the hit.
“Thus far, we’ve identified seven individuals who were former members of the Colombian military that had received some sort of … US funded and provided education and training,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday, stressing that such training is “very common,” and did not “[lead] to or [encourage] what happened in Haiti.”
While Kirby declined to provide details on an individual basis for the seven assassins, he said the instruction included “cadet leadership development, counter-drug operations, noncommissioned officer professional development, small-unit leadership training, human rights training, emergency medical training, some helicopter maintenance training, and those kinds of things.”
He went on to say that he knew of no plans at the Pentagon to reconsider this “very valuable, ethical leadership training” program despite recent events in Haiti, which saw President Jovenel Moïse shot dead by gunmen at his home near Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Around two dozen suspects have since been brought into Haitian custody, the majority of them former members of Colombia’s military now working for private security firms, some based in the US.
The Pentagon had previously confirmed that some of the Colombian assassins had received American training, but declined to offer any details at the time.
Though Kirby repeatedly argued that the US training courses played no role in the presidential hit, the assassination comes as the latest in a long line of coups and murder plots involving US-trained foreign personnel. Since 2008, Africa alone has seen no fewer than seven military coups spearheaded by American-trained fighters. Among the most recent are two separate coups in Mali since August 2020, both led by US-trained Colonel Assimi Goïta.
Worldwide, the record on US training programs appears much more damning. Between 1970 and 2009, American-trained militants were involved in 165 coup attempts, according to research published in 2017 by Jonathan Caverley of the US Naval War College and Jesse Savage of Trinity College Dublin. Though their research was confined to only two specific programs, they found a “robust relationship between US training of foreign militaries and military-backed coup attempts.”