Donnerstag, 22. April 2010

Fighting Terror in the Sahara

It has long been known that al-Qaeda has turned into something of a franchise. Doesn't really matter whether you report to bin Laden himself, if you generally endorse terror and like killing civilians and western tourists and may call a group of think-a-likes yourself you are free to call yourself al-Qaeda Something. Happened in Algeria, where the former GSPC turned itself into al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It actually is more a sign of weakness, since it indicated that the GSPC had lost the war against the Algerian government (I like to refer to that as one of the many examples that conventional forces can actually prevail in asymmetric warfare, lets keep that in mind when we talk about Afghanistan).

But now that it refers to itself as an al-Qaeda affiliate, it becomes a matter of international concern. Following 9/11 the U.S. had introduced a couple of initiatives to enhance regional cooperation and anti-terror policies, from the Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI) to the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) to name but a few. All of these have meanwhile been streamlined within the Pentagon's Africa Command AFRICOM.

So it is progress when Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, and Niger (the picture shows a colonel from Niger and me at a conference in Togo last year) begin to establish a common command centre, as the BBC has learned. But problems remain. That these countries embark on such a programme on a multilateral basis is promising, but it is also proof that the regional grouping of the African Maghreb Union (AMU) will remain a papertiger for the forseeable future. The alliance misses Morocco, which indicates that the relations between Morocco and Algeria are still missing crucial improvement. And the turmoil in Niger followign the latest coup is also a serious problem.

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