At any given time, U.S. Special Operations forces train or aid foreign troops in as many as 80 countries, according to the Washington Post.
Often, however, the decision to train foreign soldiers is based on what’s politically expedient in the moment, and little thought is put into what they will do with this training once U.S. oversight is gone.
Sadly, there are many cases were troops trained by the U.S. went on to commit crimes and atrocities.
Rape and looting in DR Congo
In 2012, members of the newly created 391st Battalion – which the U.S. had spent eight months training – joined other Congolese soldiers in breaking into houses and raping 97 women and 33 girls, according to Washington Post.
They also looted villagers’ property before fleeing from an incoming advance by the M23 rebel group.
The training, which had cost $15 million, had included a sexual violence prevention program, according to Stars and Stripes magazine.
State-sponsored murder in Colombia
The Colombian army, which killed thousands of civilians between 2002 and 2008, has received and is still receiving billions in funding and extensive training from the U.S., according to a study by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Amnesty International.
In 2009, 30 out of 33 high-level commanders identified in the report had attended the School of the Americas, a U.S. academy for training Latin American soldiers.
Radical jihad warriors in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, more than 12,000 fighters were trained in camps sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency between 1985 and 2002, according to the Guardian.
The purpose of the training was to repel the Soviet invaders. But the program favored the more radically Islamist leaders, such as Jalaluddin Haqqadi, who’s credited for introducing the suicide bombing tactic to Afghanistan.
His eponymous network, and others like it, are responsible for a wide variety of crimes against civilians, and are considered to be the launching point for Al-Qaeda’s infrastructure.
A state coup in Mali
Amadou Haya Sanogo, a captain in the Mali army who trained in the U.S. on “several” occasions, led a 2012 coup that deposed the democratically elected leader of his home country, according to the Washington Post.
Following the coup, soldiers loyal to Sanogo were accused of several serious human rights violations, including kidnappings and torture.
Repression in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
Cables released by Wikileaks revealed that in 2007, the U.S. provided training to the bodyguard units of the Tajik and Kyrgyz presidents.
The countries are ranked as “consolidated authoritarian” and “semi-consolidated authoritarian” regimes, respectively, by the human rights group Freedom Watch, repressing free speech and religion while tolerating widespread prison abuse.
Islamist recruits in Somalia
In 2010, hundreds of Somali soldiers – trained with U.S. funding – deserted to Al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group that carried out the bloody Kenya mall massacre, the Guardian reports.
The soldiers left because they were not receiving their monthly $100 wage.
How can the U.S. be funding these groups?
The Leahy Law, implemented in 1997, states that any country guilty of human rights violations shall not receive U.S. aid.
Critics, including the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Human Rights Watch, say that the law is often not implemented or simply ignored by U.S. officials, who want the cooperation of local armed forces in the War on Drugs or the War on Terror.
Some military officials, however, call the law restrictive and would like to have ease its provisions.