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Trump administration working with Chad to lift travel restrictions

Trump administration working with Chad to lift travel restrictions
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The Trump administration is working with Chad to lift the travel restrictions that the U.S. recently placed on the African country — a new policy that was supposed to take effect Wednesday but has been put on hold by a federal judge.

The State Department said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that it plans to help Chad improve its vetting capabilities so that it can be removed from President Trump's list of travel-ban nations. 

The agency also said that Chad, a key counterterrorism ally, has “shown a clear willingness to work closely with us on these issues.”

“National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster spoke to Chad President Idriss Deby Itno to underscore the importance of the bilateral relationship and Chad’s effort as a key partner in countering terrorism,” the State Department said.

The statement came not long after a federal district court in Hawaii temporarily blocked the majority of Trump’s latest travel ban from taking effect. 

Trump’s order, which was set to take effect on Wednesday at 12:01 a.m., indefinitely banned entry into the U.S. by nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela.  

It was supposed to replace Trump’s controversial 90-day travel ban, which expired last month and was also bogged down by legal challenges before it was allowed to partially take effect. 

Chad was not targeted by Trump’s initial travel ban, but its inclusion in the new version of the policy sparked backlash. The country has been a key ally in fighting against terror groups in Africa, even helping its neighbor Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram.

The State Department and Pentagon were reportedly worried that including Chad on the list could have negative consequences for American interests in the country and the fight against terror groups in the region.

But Trump's proclamation, based on a classified report and recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security, said that travel from Chad needs to be limited because the country “does not adequately share public safety and terrorism-related information and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion.”

McMaster acknowledged there was "real debate" about adding Chad to the list, but said at a Washington conference that the list is "not fixed."

Senior administration officials have emphasized that the travel restrictions are supposed to be conditional. If countries improve their information-sharing practices, the restrictions can be lifted, while new nations could also be added to the ban in the future.