Antiterrorism meeting in Algeria signals regional worries about terror

North African leaders are concerned about the rising threats of loose weapons, the local Al Qaeda franchise, kidnapping, and rebellions – particularly since the fall of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi.

Tomorrow and Thursday, security experts from Sahelian countries will meet in Algiers to discuss anti-terrorism efforts in the region. This meeting is the latest in an ongoing series dedicated to deepening regional cooperation:

This is a technical meeting which will be attended by experts in the framework of the activities of the Global Forum on Anti-terrorism. The first meeting had officially been held on 22nd and 23rd September, 2011 in New York.

Since 2010, four Sahelian countries, including Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, cooperate militarily as part of a Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff based in Tamanrasset, in the extreme south of Algeria.

Moreover, Algeria held on 7th and 8th September a conference on the partnership, security and development in the Sahel, which had established the foundations for partnership development and security between countries of the Sahel and the West.

Other recent meetings in the region with relevance for security issues include talks between North African and European commanders in Nouakchott in late September; a parley on Sunday between northern Malian politicians and Tuareg fighters; and a visit Monday by Nigerien Prime Minister Rafini Briji to Burkina Faso. Last but not least, Magharebia reports on a meeting of Sahelian ministers and Obama administration officials in Washington, DC, last week. More here (French).

The pace of these meetings reflects the deep concern, both regional and international, over issues such as loose weapons, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, drug smuggling, kidnapping, and rebellions caused by fighters returning from Libya. As talks continue, new military aid to Sahelian governments is arriving.

New resources and shared interests may push Sahelian countries toward tighter cooperation. But talks and money are not the only necessary ingredients in this endeavor, and there are obstacles to cooperation as well. The challenges each country in the region faces differ, and lingering political tensions and mistrust may continue to limit or slow the development of cooperative frameworks.

– Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.

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