Cablegate: Algeria Says Bamako Summit Key to Regional

DE RUEHAS #0948/01 2980928
O 250928Z OCT 09



EO 12958 DECL: 10/20/2029

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Classified By: Ambassador David D Pearce; reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: Algerian Minister Delegate for Defense Guenaizia told visiting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) Ambassador Vicki Huddleston October 19 that the Algerian, Mauritanian, Nigerien and Malian chiefs of staff had agreed to set up a regional command for joint counter terrorism operations at Tamanrasset in southern Algeria. He indicated the command could eventually be expanded to include Libya, Burkina Faso and Chad. For its part, Algeria was determined that terrorists not be allowed to set up logistics, training and supply bases along its frontiers, i.e., in neighboring countries, with the intent of delivering weapons and explosives to Algeria. Algeria has taken the lead in sensitizing its southern neighbors to the nature of the threat and the need for combined action. Huddleston asked how the U.S. and others could support this effort. Guenaizia replied that intelligence-sharing was fundamental. So was provision of certain technical means, like IED jammers. A delegation from Northrop Grumman was coming to Algeria this week to discuss the capabilities of a Boeing 737 aircraft with a modified AWACS array. But the U.S. could perhaps assist most before the impending Bamako summit by helping secure the requisite top-level political will among Sahel countries that would make the summit a success and facilitate effective military cooperation. Here, he contended, the biggest problem was the Malian political leadership. The U.S. could help by talking to Mali and others with influence in Mali to ensure the necessary level of political will was there. Huddleston said she expected the U.S. would indeed be engaging Mali and its neighbors to help make the summit a success. Guenaizia welcomed the expected visit of General Ward of Africa Command in late November. END SUMMARY.


2. (C/NF) Visiting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) Ambassador Vicki Huddleston met October 19 with Algerian Minister Delegate for Defense Abdelmalik Guenaizia and other senior generals, including Defense Ministry (MND) SG Major General Ahmed Senhadji, MND Director of External Relations and Cooperation General Mekri, MND Director of the Directorate of Documentation and External Security (DDSE) Major General Lallali and Colonel Mohamed Benmousset, Project Manager for Major General Senhadji. She told Guenaizia that the United States recognized Algeria’s leadership in Africa, including Algeria’s history of support to Africa’s independence movements, promotion of economic and social development, and on security matters. Huddleston acknowledged Algeria’s own experience in combating terrorism and underscored USG appreciation for Algeria’s lead on efforts to secure the Sahel region and prevent terrorism from taking root in neighboring countries. She recalled her cooperation with Algeria when she was ambassador in Mali to confront the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), forerunner of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), after the GSPC captured European tourists and brought them to northern Mali from Algeria in 2003. Algeria’s commitment to combat GSPC in the region was clear, she said, and its engagement with Mali was impressive. The U.S. played its part through training to increase Mali’s military planning capacity. In the end, Huddleston concluded, we were successful. GSPC fled Mali to Niger and then to Chad, where GSPC leader “al-Para” was captured and returned to Algeria. Huddleston noted the regional military chiefs of staff meeting held in Tamanrasset in July and the planned regional heads of state summit in Bamako demonstrated that Algeria understood once more the importance of a coordinated regional response to combat terrorism in the Sahel. The U.S. recognized Algeria’s commitment to working with the countries of the region, she stressed, and Algeria’s leading role in that effort. She explained the goal of her visit was to learn how the U.S. can support Algeria’s effort.

3. (C) Guenaizia thanked Huddleston for focusing her discussion on counterterrorism. Terrorism, he emphasized, was not a local phenomenon in the region. It was brought from outside with all its horrors, he said, and it is a phenomenon the people of the region reject. When the threat
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first emerged in Algeria, the international community misunderstood the scope of the problem and left Algeria alone to fight in the 1990s. Algeria faced an international embargo in its time of need, he said. Despite this embargo and the challenge of protecting an area of 2.3 million square kilometers and a population of 34 million, he said, Algeria became self-reliant and prevailed with the overwhelming support of the Algerian people the security services and the army.


4. (C/NF) Guenaizia said today the situation had improved considerably, but terrorism remains a serious threat, and Algeria will maintain the same level of pressure and dedication to its counterterrorism efforts. He stressed, however, that terrorism was not only a threat to Algeria, it threatened the entire region and beyond. AQIM, he argued, wants to embed itself in the region and, therefore, Algeria intended to take the fight beyond Algeria’s borders. Like a skilled boxer, he said, the key is to keep pressure on your opponent and increase your room for maneuver. Guenaizia made it clear that Algeria will not tolerate a situation in which AQIM or other armed groups are able to establish camps for logistics and training along Algeria’s frontier in neighboring countries with the intent of facilitating the entry of trained insurgents, weapons and explosives into Algeria.

5. (C/NF) Guenaizia said the situation in northern Mali presented the greatest obstacle to combating terrorism. The nexus of arms, drug and contraband smuggling in northern Mali created an enabling environment, Guenaizia argued, and provided a source of logistical and financial support. Guenaizia added that terrorists will use any means available to finance their activities, including corruption and hostage-taking. Thus, he underlined, fighting terrorism requires “implacable” political will to neutralize all avenues of support terrorists can exploit. Guenaizia asserted that increased drug trafficking represented a critical problem in this regard. Thousands of tons of drugs now cross through the region, he said. Based on clashes with Algerian security forces, Guenaizia assessed that those involved in drug trafficking were well organized and had military training. Guenaizia said that Morocco was a major smuggling route for cannabis and hashish and was not doing enough to interdict traffickers. Huddleston told Guenaizia the U.S. was equally concerned with drug trafficking in northwest Africa, particularly Colombian drugs transiting west Africa and the Sahel en route to Europe. The drug trade added another source of finance for terrorists, and its destabilizing effect on local populations could expand the geographic scope of terrorist recruitment efforts, she said, citing the example of the Boko Haram in Nigeria.

6. (C) Guenaizia cautioned that the terrorist network in the Sahel is a sophisticated organization. “These are not simple warlords we are facing,” he emphasized. They use the best explosives, have honed their bomb-making expertise and use sophisticated means to deploy explosives against their targets, Guenaizia underscored. He added that information to build highly sophisticated IEDs is easily obtainable from the Internet. No country is safe, he went on; “We need to remain vigilant.”


7. (C/NF) Guenaizia noted that regional chiefs of staff met in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset in July to create a mechanism to allow militaries in the region to coordinate efforts against terrorist threats while at the same time respecting each country’s sovereignty. Military leaders of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, he said, agreed to establish a regional command in Tamanrasset that will host military representatives from each country and coordinate joint operations against AQIM targets. Joint military efforts, Guenaizia elaborated, are necessary to prevent AQIM from implanting itself in the region. He called this the fundamental challenge. Regional military leaders are
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now sensitized to the problem, he asserted, and are willing to wage a common CT campaign. He indicated that the command could eventually be expanded to include Libya, Burkina Faso and Chad. For its part, Algeria will provide resources to optimize the command center’s capacity. “What we can’t obtain among ourselves,” he added, “we will seek from our friends.”

8. (C/NF) Guenaizia cautioned that, although the regional command in Tamanrasset was an important first step, he didn’t expect immediate results. The meeting in Tamanrasset, he noted, concerned military coordination, but successful action hinged on two operational aspects: military readiness and political will. Guenaizia said regional military leaders had done their job, now it was up to the civilian leaders of the region to demonstrate the political will to act. “We are waiting for the Bamako summit,” Guenaizia stressed.


9. (S/NF) As to how the U.S. and others could support the regional effort, Guenaizia emphasized (repeating himself three times to make the point) that sharing intelligence was fundamental. Guenaizia reminded Huddleston that Algeria once agreed to U.S. surveillance overflights years ago, but the experience yielded few positive results for Algeria even though the intelligence collected related directly to Algeria’s national security and used Algeria’s sovereign airspace. Huddleston replied that the U.S. and Algeria were already sharing a lot of intelligence. There would be a willingness to conduct overflights, but she underlined that any overflight mission would have to be linked to direct action on the ground. The cost of one mission, she emphasized, was around USD 50,000, so we had to be sure of the result. Huddleston suggested Guenaizia could raise this matter during AFRICOM Commander General Ward’s expected visit in November.

10. (S/NF) The provision of technical means was also key. Guenaizia complained that in many ways Algeria still faced an embargo in regards to the provision of technical equipment, including counter-IED measures and sensors for intelligence gathering. He informed Huddleston that a Northrop Grumman delegation will arrive in Algeria this week to discuss the capabilities of an AWACS-type platform based on a Boeing 737 airframe. Algeria also needed sophisticated IED jammers, he said. Insurgents use cell phones to detonate IEDs remotely, he stressed, resulting in huge casualties for Algerian forces. Guenaizia lamented that despite this critical need, Algeria’s partners had been slow in responding to Algeria’s request to purchase jammers. He did not refer directly to U.S. end-use-monitoring rules, but he shared an anecdote about Algeria’s difficulties purchasing jamming technology from Portugal, a request, he continued, that has been pending for more than a year with no response.

11. (S/NF) He said the U.S. and others could perhaps assist most before the Bamako heads of state summit by helping secure the requisite top-level political will among Sahel governments needed to make the summit a success and facilitate effective military action. DDSE Major General Lallali said the key to securing commitment for effective cooperation rested with top-level leaders in Bamako. Lallali said Mali’s political leadership was the biggest problem. “We need a signal from Bamako that shows their commitment,” Lallali stated. Malians are suffering from terrorism, he said, yet when local populations try to fight back, the authorities crack down on those populations.

12. (S/NF) Lallali complained that Malian officials have alerted insurgents that their cell phone calls were being monitored and leaked sensitive intelligence. Lallali also accused Mali of facilitating ransom payments for hostages. He called Mali a favorable business environment for terrorists and believed many wealthy and powerful families in Mali benefited from illegal trafficking. He termed the XXXXXXXXXXXX the “Terrorist Bank” and said, “we need to suppress that bank,” noting the connection between drug trafficking and support for terrorist finance and logistics. Lallali commented that Algeria’s effort in the UN to criminalize
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ransom payments aimed to curb corruption’s role in facilitating terrorism. He implored DASD Huddleston to “please do something with them.”

13. (S/NF) Guenaizia agreed that trust was an issue with Mali. Although Algeria has provided materiel and training support to Mali to help resolve the Tuareg issue, it was not inclined to give Mali weapons and communications gear because of concerns that such equipment might be trafficked to Ivory Coast or Guinea. Guenaizia said there was a “double language” in Mali-- its political leadership did not share the commitment Mali’s military leaders demonstrated. In order to succeed in the fight, Guenaizia affirmed, Mali had to cooperate fully. The Bamako summit has to deliver a clear political commitment. The U.S. could help by talking to Mali and others with influence in Mali to ensure the necessary level of political will was there. Huddleston agreed that complicity in Mali regarding the desire to share in the spoils of illegal trafficking seemed to have become worse since her tenure as ambassador. She concurred that Mali’s cooperation was essential but said that engaging Mali was a task for the entire region, not only Algeria. Huddleston cited the potential role of other partners in the region with influence in Mali, like Libya and Burkina Faso. She also suggested involving the AU to press for a general statement on fighting terrorism in the Sahel that would not single out Mali but rather deliver a broad message that countries in the region should act in concert and not allow terrorists to operate with impunity. The U.S., she said, will engage Mali and others in the region to play a constructive role in the region’s fight against terrorism.


14. (S/NF) Huddleston told Guenaizia that U.S. military assistance in the region aimed to improve the capacity of militaries in Mali, Mauritania and Chad through training and equipment. President Tandja’s bid for a third term in office, she regretted, probably meant the U.S. will not be able to assist Niger, but we will extend our assistance to Burkina Faso soon. It was important, she stressed, that U.S. efforts were in step with regional efforts already underway. In this regard, Huddleston emphasized that communication among regional governments and other partners, like the U.S., was essential. Huddleston referred to recent talks between the U.S. and European allies on security in the Sahel, during which the European Commission and France mentioned plans for assistance. Guenaizia noted Europe’s interest in getting involved and said that some European governments had tried to insert themselves into the Tamanrasset meeting. He bluntly stated that Africa had already endured a period of colonialism. Lallali interjected that European participation could complicate matters.

15. (S/NF) Huddleston clarified that outside partners did not have to be involved directly but needed to be apprised of future steps and planning in order to provide support. Huddleston suggested regular meetings by the MOD with the Ambassador and DATT in Algiers. Guenaizia said he had no objection, both with the U.S. and others. The threat concerns all. But cooperation had to advance gradually. We should review progress in stages, he added. Immediate efforts, he reiterated, should focus on pressuring Mali and achieving a successful summit in Bamako. The next step was to allow time for standing up the regional command in Tamanrasset and determining equipment needs. He suggested in two to three months we might be able meet and take stock of that effort. In this regard, Guenaizia welcomed the expected visit of General Ward of Africa Command in November.

16. (U) DASD Huddleston did not clear this cable.

17. (U) Tripoli minimize considered. PEARCE

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