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According to the article, a new leader of a more dangerous and lethal commando of AQIM is taking over the lead of the North African branch of Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. Mr. Abu zeid, an Algerian national, is overshadowing the infamous Mokhtar Belmokhtar as the face of the terror group. The recent kidnapping of foreigners in Niger and the latest military activities on the Mauritania - Mali borders confirms an uptick in terrorist operations in the Sahel. The increased lawlessness in a vast mass of the Sahara desert is raising the specter of an “Afghanization” in the region and the instability that would ensue from it.
The Algerian Army, that has claimed the lead of the anti-terror efforts in the Sahel and North Africa, has thus far failed to stem the activities of AQIM in the region, and, most importantly, within Algeria’s own borders (Five security personnel died in a terrorist attacks in Algeria this week). As the Algerian government continues to publicly reject “outside” help in its “war” against terrorism, the Washington Post reveals the presence of American troops on Algerian soil. Unlike Mali, Mauritania, Niger and other nations in the region that duly coordinate their security efforts with Western and American Special Forces, the Algerians insist in exerting the role of “the regional leader” at the expense of a more coordinated and effective strategy.
The Washington Post article reported “the United States has supplied electronic intelligence on Abu Zeid to France to help track French hostages, with U.S. personnel either stationed at, or passing through the area. In response, the article adds, Abu Zeid recently ordered his combatants to halt satellite telephone communications, which are vulnerable to monitoring by U.S. satellites or drones.
This article is the latest source indicating American military presence in Tamanrasset, a large city in southern Algeria and its gateway to the Sahara. Several other influential sources have previously alluded to American intelligence operatives that are active in the Algerian Sahara. Since AQIM is a threat to all the countries in the region and to the interests of the United States, American help and support are crucial and essential in this fight. So why are the Algerians denying that U.S military personnel is operating on Algeria’s soil?
Would it conflict with its stated role in the Algeria/Nigeria/South-Africa Axis as the “Revolutionary” Champions of independent Africa, free from Foreign Inference?
In its bid to become the “regional leader” in North West Africa, Algeria has made its stratagem to counter Morocco on the African scene, over the conflict in the Western Sahara, as the corner stone of its foreign policy. Even the American-Algerian relations are colored with the ramification of Algeria’s policy vis-à-vis Morocco.
The Washington Post article dispels recent claims made by Algeria’s foreign Minister about the reasons of Algeria attempts at excluding Morocco form meetings regarding the security in the Sahel. Mr. Mourad MEDELCI said “the last time he checked a map of Morocco, It was not located in the Sahel region”. Well, so are the USA and the Europeans that are “secretly” helping the Algerian Government secure its own portion of the Sahara.
Algeria’s policy on the Western Sahara and its over ambitious plan at becoming a “regional leader” pose a hurdle for the creation and implementation of an effective anti-AQIM strategy. This situation has become increasingly unstable as Mrs Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abu zeid are moving freely and without much of a challenge from the Algerian Army. AQIM will only be contained if all the countries in the region implement a cohesive approach to counter the terrorism threat in the region.
Short term, divisive decisions to score points in the Western Sahara Conflict are posing a threat to the US National interest, as well as that of North Africa and Southern European countries.
Author: Hassan Masiky graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a degree in political science. Hassan joined the Washington DC based non government organization the Parliamentary Human Rights Foundation (PHRF) where he worked as a consultant for USAID democracy projects in Mexico, Haiti, Republic of Georgia and the European Parliament. After leaving PHRF, Hassan dedicated his time advising Amnesty International USA on African and Middle Eastern affairs and representing the organization in press conferences. Mr. Masiky was a host on several television shows discussing human rights and democracy.