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Biden moves to designate Kenya as a major non-NATO U.S. ally

Washington — President Biden on Thursday announced his intent to designate Kenya as a major non-NATO U.S. ally, the first such designation for a sub-Saharan African country.

The president made the announcement during Kenyan President William Ruto’s state visit to the White House, the first for an African leader since the George W. Bush administration. The trip also coincides with the 60th anniversary of U.S.-Kenyan diplomatic relations. 

“I’m proud to announce we’re working with Congress to designate Kenya a major non-NATO ally,” Mr. Biden said during a joint press conference with the Kenyan president. “That’s a fulfillment of years of collaboration. Our joint counterterrorism operations have degraded ISIS and al-Shabaab across East Africa. Our mutual support for Ukraine has rallied the world to stand behind the U.N. Charter. And our work together on Haiti is helping pave the way to reduce instability and insecurity.” 

Presidents can grant the major non-NATO ally designation to countries that have close strategic working relationships with the United States, a senior administration official told reporters on a call. Once the president informs Congress of the move, there is a 30-day period before the designation will go into effect. The designation, under U.S. law, provides foreign partners with defense, trade and security cooperation benefits.

“This is a powerful symbol of the close relationship our two countries share, and we welcome the increased cooperation on security and mutual priorities this action signals,” Mr. Biden and Ruto said in a joint statement Thursday. 

The designation announcement comes as Kenyan police officers are set to arrive in Haiti, as multiple nations seek to quell a surge in gang violence in Haiti’s capital city. The U.S. is also providing intelligence and equipment in the effort, as Mr. Biden said Thursday. 

“Gangs and criminals do not have nationalities,” Ruto said during the news conference. “They have no religion. They have no language. Their language is one — to deal with them firmly, decisively, within the parameters of the law. And that’s why we’re building a coalition of nations beyond Kenya and the U.S., many who are making contributions.” 

Mr. Biden had pledged to visit the African continent in 2023, but he still has yet to schedule a trip. On Wednesday, the president said he would visit the continent in February 2025, if he’s reelected.

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