Cablegate: U.S.-France-Eu Discuss Sahel Security Issues

DE RUEHFR #1339/01 2730934
P 300934Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: U.S. government representatives met
French, British, and European Union officials on
September 10 in Paris to review efforts to address the
security threat posed by terrorism in Africa's Sahel and
Maghreb regions. There was broad agreement that the USG,
France, and other third countries should identify areas of
cooperation and mechanisms to coordinate and de-conflict
efforts to improve multilateral and individual country
capacity in the region to address immediate and long-term
threats from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The
discussions focused on factors influencing the region's
ability to address the AQIM threat, including the Sahel
countries' lack of law enforcement and military capacity; the
complexity of state relations with its nomadic populations,
e.g. the Tuareg and Berbiche ethnic groups, the profitability
of illicit trade and kidnapping networks; the need for
Algeria to work more closely with its neighbors; the
importance of better donor coordination; and undermining
recruitment efforts that could expand the scope of radical
Islam in West and Central Africa. Participants agreed on the
need to meet in the future to exchange information regarding
each other's efforts in region. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Johnnie Carson led a high-level interagency delegation in
discussions with a French delegation led by Under Secretary
for Political Affairs (P)-equivalent Policy Director Jacques
Audibert and Africa A/S-equivalent Stephane Gompertz. The
U.S. and French delegations were joined by British and
European Union counterparts for the afternoon session. The
discussion began with an exchange of information on the
current security and political situation in the Sahel, which
Gompertz described as France's "main area of concern" in
sub-Saharan Africa and was followed by exchanges on a wide
range of critical factors related to the region's terrorist
threat. Martin Julliard, France's Head of Transnational
Threats Section, Strategic and Security Affairs Department at
the MFA, said that AQIM's political agenda was not well
understood and was evolving over time. He noted that AQIM is
targeting westerners, but it was not clear whether it wanted
to challenge the legitimacy of governments or even the
states. Participants noted that while AQIM's northern group
remains concentrated on Algeria, elements of the southern
group have shifted away from acting primarily as logistical
support for northern operations and have increased planning
and operations in the Sahel. It was emphasized that the
southern group remained linked with its northern leadership,
but has made inroads in recruiting in the Sahel, particularly
in Mauritania, and has increased the scope and sophistication
of its operations in parts of the Sahel during the past year.
USG and French participants considered whether there were
opportunities to exploit apparent divisions within AQIM.
Remi Marechaux, an Africa Advisor to President Sarkozy summed
up the situation succinctly, "we feel we are losing the
battle between improved development in these countries and
the increasing security threats in the region."

3. (SBU) There was broad agreement among the participants
that the focus countries of the conference (Mauritania, Mali,
and Niger) lack the resources to fully control their vast
territories. In addition, lack of governmental capacity
remains a serious hindrance in terms of military/security
effectiveness and developmental progress. The EU chair noted
that each country posed specific challenges for partners in
addressing security threats:

-- Mali, where in addition to capacity constraints, there are
questions about the government's willingness to confront and
engage AQIM militarily, despite clear indications that AQIM
maintains a degree of impunity within its Northern Mali
"sanctuaries." S/CT Coordinator Daniel Benjamin noted that
Mali is perhaps becoming more helpful, but French speakers
consistently referred to the Malian position as "ambiguous"
and "enigmatic;"

-- Mauritania, which may possess greater political will for
taking-on AQIM, but political instability following the
recent coup hampered efforts to support its CT efforts; and

PARIS 00001339 002 OF 005

-- Niger, where recent un-democratic maneuvering by
President Tandja makes it difficult to offer new assistance.
NSC Senior Advisor Michelle Gavin underscored that our CT
efforts cannot undercut our governance and democracy
priorities in Africa. While remarking that President Tandja
had already "won his gamble" to secure a third term and the
French will focus their attention on pushing for credible
elections, Gompertz stated that France did not have a clear
strategy to balance its CT objectives with the urgency of
promoting good governance and constitutional rule in the

4. (SBU) France's MOD Director of Strategic Affairs Pascal
Texeira noted that AQIM is commonly understood to have only
about 150 fighters in the Sahel, but it has significant
financial resources for obtaining weapons and logistic
support such as vehicles and radios from profitable illicit
trafficking networks, including arms, people, drugs, and
other contraband. Of even greater concern is AQIM's apparent
success in securing large ransom sums for kidnapped
westerners. When asked, U.K. FCO Director for Africa Adam
Wood confirmed that following the January murder of U.K.
hostage Edwin Dyer, his country would play a more active role
in the region, and would certainly support an AU initiative
at the UN to rally international opposition against ransom
payments in cases of piracy and hostage-taking, which he
believed was being spearheaded by Algeria. Participants had
not yet seen a draft of the resolution.

5. (SBU) Developing a better understanding of Tuareg
activities and motivations was seen as an important priority,
especially since they develop ad-hoc agreements with AQIM
elements in support of trafficking and perhaps kidnapping.
Texeira stated that Mali views the threat of a new Tuareg
rebellion as more dangerous than that from AQIM, and neither
Mali nor Niger could count on Tuareg leaders to fight against
AQIM. French and USG analysts also noted that breakdowns in
traditional ethnic political, social and economic networks
was potentially destabilizing.

6. (SBU) A/S Carson raised the importance of getting
Algeria involved in multi-national efforts to combat AQIM,
and also for Algeria to work in concert directly with Mali to
disrupt AQIM and criminal networks. "There can be no
solution without Algeria," according to Texeira, who thought
that Algeria would work with regional partners, but did not
want to be implicated with "outside players." They noted
that Algeria engages in limited intelligence-sharing and has
made inquiries about other forms of counterterrorism
assistance, but remains reticent about enhanced cooperation
with potential western partners.
Participants viewed positively Algeria's plans to organize a
regional security summit in the coming months, but they
agreed that there was relatively little information about
summit objectives or the agenda.

7. (SBU) The potential spread of AQIM (or some other brand
of radicalized and violent Islam) in Africa was also a
recurring issue. In particular, participants expressed deep
concern that northern Nigeria is at risk of such influence.
AQIM personnel or facilitators had also reportedly been
identified in Niger and Senegal recently. Guinea-Bissau and
Guinea are also at risk should AQIM make greater inroads into
the West African narcotics trade, according to Gilles de
Kerchove, the European Union Council's Coordinator for
Counter Terrorism. Part of the problem is that
disenfranchised young men from the southern parts of the
Sahel are moving north and joining the group.
Participants agreed on the need for a greater understanding
of how AQIM successfully recruited militants/fighters/suicide
bombers, especially from
Mauritania. (Note: during a lunchtime conversation,
France's Ambassador to Mauritania explained to INR Analyst

PARIS 00001339 003 OF 005

Bernadette Graves and Embassy Paris Africa Watcher that he
sees no clear trend, nor does he understand the reasons for,
AQIM's apparent success in recruiting young Mauritanians. He
notes that these recruits have come from a variety of
backgrounds and ethnic groups and the trend does not fit the
commonly held view of Mauritania as a moderate, tolerant
Muslim country with Sufi traditions. End note.)

8. (SBU) One of the goals of the conference, and a recurring
theme, was to improve assistance co-ordination among donors.
The U.S., France, and the EU provide a range of military and
security training in the region. Assistant Secretary Carson
discussed the background and goals of the U.S. interagency
Trans-Saharan Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP). He
noted that TSCTP was a broad-based holistic approach to
supporting regional CT efforts that includes military and law
enforcement capacity-building, public diplomacy/strategic
communications, and support for local and national good
governance. USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Earl Gast
observed that development indicators in the Sahel are among
the worst in the world and USAID involvement in USG
counter-extremism programming reflects that the regional
vulnerability to terrorism is increased by the lack of
employment opportunities for youth and poor or nonexistent
governance and service delivery in large swaths of territory.

9. (SBU) France is focused on responding to Mali's request
to assist its efforts to establish four forward operating
bases in its northern frontier. It is also exploring how to
support efforts to improve Malian administration and local
governance in the north and improve customs and border
security. Gompertz stated that France has security dialogues
with Niger and Mali and would soon initiate discussions with
Mauritania. The French also highlighted the urgency of
assisting countries with judicial reform, training of
prosecutors and magistrates, and criminal procedures.

10. (SBU) The EU completed an assessment of Mali in July and
will visit Mauritania in October, but has postponed plans to
visit Niger due to the current political situation. Future
assistance may include border surveillance and customs
services, and Sweden's Ambassador for Counter Terrorism Carin
Wall highlighted the EU's desire to collaborate more closely
with other actors, "not least the U.S."

11. (SBU) All three donors have or are considering programs
in judicial processes and law-enforcement. A/S Johnson
explained that the U.S. will likely establish a Regional
Security Training Center in West Africa, and the EU noted
that it is considering something similar: a Sahel-based
"multi-functional" regional training center focusing on
military, law enforcement, and border control and customs
capacity building. The EU and French representatives
highlighted the importance of building academies and
"clearinghouses" to provide training to a range of security

12. (SBU) The participants agreed to collect and share
detailed information about the specific programs and projects
each is pursuing or considering in the region as the first
step for further consultations and coordination. Towards the
end of the event, A/S Carson encouraged the participants to
find the time and means to expand this type of dialog into
other areas in need of greater mutual understanding and
coordination in Africa, including the way forward in Somalia,
Sudan, and the Great Lakes, and also for transboundary issues
such as demographic pressures, democracy, and development
priorities. A/S Johnson added judicial reform, including
best practices in corrections as another timely need.

13. (SBU) The three-plus groups agreed that supporting
regional CT efforts in the Sahel was an important immediate
and long-term priority, but there was a clear consensus that
external actors must ensure that they limit visibility of
their activities and avoid actions that would be seen as
undercutting regional leadership over the issue. Elysee

PARIS 00001339 004 OF 005

Advisor Marechaux noted that the French had not crafted a
"Sahel plan" in order to avoid a potential backlash from
Sahelian and Maghreb states suspicious of its intentions in
the region. He noted that increasing the "profile" of the
AQIM problem would likely enhance the group's Jihadist
"credentials" and attract potential recruits from inside and
outside the region. A/S Carson agreed: "We don,t want to
become part of the problem by appearing to take the lead; we
need to lead from the side, not from out front." He noted
that raising the profile of external actors in the region
risked alienating key Sahelian interlocutors and further
risked assisting AQIM recruiting and resourcing efforts.
Ambassador Benjamin agreed that it was vital to ensure that
the counterterrorism effort had a "local face."

14. (SBU) This gathering will likely prove the kick-off to
further discussions and closer cooperation. The French and
the EU reps were willing to share their analysis of the
situation, but were clearly also ready to defer to the U.S.'s
assessment. More than one French participant who later
joined a POL-hosted reception noted how impressed they were
with the high level of participation by the U.S. and by A/S
Carson's positive role as co-Chair of the event.

15. (U) U.S.
- Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African
- Michelle Gavin, National Security Council Special
Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African
- Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
- David Johnson, Assistant Secretary of State for
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
- Vicki Huddleston, Department of Defense, Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense for African Affairs
- Janet Sanderson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
Near Eastern Affairs
- Earl Gast, U.S. Agency for International Development
Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator.
- Christopher Maier, Director for Counterterrorism National
Security Council
- Bernadette Graves, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
- Daniel Epstein, Bureau of African Affairs
- Victor Nelson, Regional Officer, Office of the
Coordinator for Counterterrorism
- Erin Barclay, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement Affairs
- Embassy Paris Africa Watcher.

Presidency of the Republic
- Remi Marechaux, Advisor on Sub-Saharan Africa

Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs
- Jacques Audibert, Political Director
- Stephane Gompertz, Director of Africa and Indian Ocean
- Patrice Paoli, Director of North Africa and Middle East
- General Emmanuel Beth, Director of security and defense
- Charlotte Montel, Advisor of the Minister for African
Affairs, Cabinet
- Laurent Bigot, Head of West Africa Section, Africa and
Indian Ocean Department
- Jocelyne Caballero, Head of Multilateral Affairs Section,
Security and Defense Cooperation Department
- Martin Julliard, Head of Transnational Threats Section,
Strategic and Security Affairs Department
- Alice Guitton, Head of the Democratic Governance Bureau,
Global Economy and Development Strategies Department,
Globalization, Development and Partnerships Directorate

National Defence Secretary General
- General Andre Lanata, Head of International Affairs
Section, International Affairs, Strategic and Technologic
Affairs Department

PARIS 00001339 005 OF 005

Ministry of Defence
- Colonel Benoit Houssay, Military Advisor of the Minister
- Colonel Jean-Jacques Toutous, Head of Africa Bureau,
Joint Head-Quarters
- Colonel Emmanuel Maurin, Head of Regional Affairs
Section, Strategic Affairs Delegation
- Pascal Teixeira, Director of Strategic Affairs
- Guy Thomas, Strategic Affairs Direction

Ministry of the Interior
- Michel Duclos, Diplomatic Advisor
- Emile Perez, Head of the Police International and Technical
Cooperation Bureau.

Presidency of the European Union
- Carin Wall, Ambassador for Counter Terrorism, Swedish
Foreign Affairs
- Daniel Wolven, Swedish Embassy in Paris

European Commission
- Manuel Lopez-Blanco, Director for West and Central
Africa, Directorate general for Development

European Union Council
- Gilles de Kerchove, Coordinator for Counter Terrorism

Member States
- Adam Wood, Director for Africa, Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, United Kingdom
- Corin Robertson, Joint Head, Counter Terrorism
Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom
- Hugo Shorter, Counsellor Global Issues, British Embassy in
- Nina Hermann, First Secretary, German Embassy in Paris.

16. (U) This cable was cleared by U.S. conference

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Save The Children: Tonga Volcano Ash And Smoke Cause Concern For Air And Water Safety
Families in Tonga are at risk of exposure to unsafe air and water due to ash and smoke from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano that erupted on Saturday, reports Save the Children...

Sudan: 15 Attacks On Health Facilities And Workers In Two Months

With the crisis escalating in Sudan, there have been 15 reports of attacks on healthcare workers and health facilities since last November, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday... More>>

Kazakhstan: Bachelet Urges Peaceful Resolution Of Grievances
Amid alarming reports of deadly violence in Kazakhstan, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday urged all, including security forces, protesters and others, to refrain from violence and to seek a peaceful resolution of grievances... More>>

Tigray: Agencies Suspend Aid As ‘Scores’ Are Killed Due To Airstrikes
Recent airstrikes on camps for internally displaced persons and refugees in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, have reportedly killed scores of civilians, including children, and left many more injured... More>>

UN News: For 25th Year In A Row, Greenland Ice Sheet Shrinks

2021 marked the 25th year in a row in which the key Greenland ice sheet lost more mass during the melting season, than it gained during the winter, according to a new UN-endorsed report issued on Friday... More>>

Afghanistan: Economy In ‘Freefall’, Threatening To Take Entire Population With It

Afghanistan’s economy is in “free fall”, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told a special meeting on Sunday, warning that if decisive and compassionate action is not taken immediately, it may “pull the entire population with it”... More>>