Since Déby took power, his forces have put down numerous rebellions and coups. In 2006, Déby and the President of Sudan sponsored insurrections against each other. The Chadian rebels made it all the way to N’Djamena. French soldiers helped stabilize the capital, but near the Sudanese border the Chadian Army forcibly conscripted children. “Déby has trouble finding soldiers who are willing to fight for him,” a senior Chadian military officer told Human Rights Watch. “Child soldiers are ideal, because they don’t complain, they don’t expect to be paid, and, if you tell them to kill, they kill.”
In 2008, Congress passed a law that banned American military support for governments that used child soldiers. But President Barack Obama secured a waiver for Chad, arguing that it was “in the national interest” of the United States to train and equip Chad’s military. Al Qaeda’s message was taking root in parts of Africa where nation-states had been sloppily crafted and poorly ruled. The war on terror had reached the Sahel.