Military Capabilities

Pentagon resumes training ‘Northern Triangle’ militaries, despite Trump’s promise to cut aid

11 June 2019

A US Marine with the SPMAGTF-SC assesses the repair process on a broken water valve in Trujillo, Honduras, during a 2018 deployment to Central America. Despite the Trump administration’s pledge to cut off aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, the SPMAGTF-SC has once again deployed to the region to help train the three nations’ militaries during the 2019 hurricane season. Source: US Department of Defense/Sergeant Justin Smith

US troops are continuing to train El Salvadorian, Guatemalan, and Honduran military forces despite the Trump administration's promise to cut aid to the three nations in protest of an influx of asylum seekers fleeing north in a quest for refuge in the US.

In late March, US President Donald Trump announced Washington would cut off funding to the three 'Northern Triangle' countries, a move that would, in part, halt efforts to train their militaries and security forces. Nearly three months later, a US State Department spokesperson told Jane's that while it is continuing to carry out some of the previously inked contracts and plans, it has "ceased obligating new funds".

The Defense Department initially curtailed security co-operation programmes with the three nations, but on 3 May, it resumed efforts and "restored" them to the previous programmed levels, Department of Defense spokesperson Major Chris Mitchell told Jane's on 11 June. He did not disclose the duration of the halt, its effect, or who made the decision to reinstate the security co-operation efforts.

As a result of the decision, a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Southern Command (SPMAGTF-SC) deployed to Central America earlier this month and will remain on the ground for the duration of the coming six-month hurricane season. There, nearly 300 US Marines and US Navy sailors are teaming up with troops from three partner nations - Brazil, Colombia, and Peru - to train forces from the Northern Triangle, as well as those from Belize.

"We haven't received any guidance or any direction to change the deployment of the SPMAGTF-SC. Until we get that, then the deployment goes as scheduled, and obviously the forces already deployed; they are currently in Central America and they're ready to work with our partners," Captain Jose Negrete, the US Marine Corps Forces, South, public affairs director, told Jane's during a 10 June interview.

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