Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More



Cablegate: Bouteflika to Ward: We Want a Strategic


DE RUEHAS #1077/01 3400757
O 060757Z DEC 09

S E C R E T ALGIERS 001077


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/06/2019

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires a.i. William Jordan;
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (C) U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Commander General
William Ward met Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
November 25, during Ward's first visit to Algeria since
assuming command of AFRICOM. Ward said AFRICOM's strategy
was to assist African nations in providing for their own
security needs, not do the job for them. The U.S. recognized
Algeria's leadership in the region, and AFRICOM was prepared
to assist Algeria and its neighbors combat terrorism.
Bouteflika said Algeria wanted to be a strategic partner, not
an adversary. Our military relationship already included
training and technical cooperation. End-use-monitoring
requirements infringed on Algeria's national sovereignty and
therefore imposed some limits on military engagement. But
the U.S. and Algeria shared a common goal in combating
terrorism. Terrorism in the region had taken a dangerous
form, and Sahel countries were prepared to address the
problem jointly. More needed to be done to ensure the
participation and commitment of Mali's political leadership
in the regional struggle. Bouteflika told Ward the Malian
president needed to understand he could not be friends with
both the thieves and their victims at the same time.
Trans-Sahara heads of state still planned to convene a
security and development summit in Bamako but had yet to set
a firm date. Bouteflika also reviewed Egyptian-Algerian
tensions in the aftermath of a World Cup qualifying match,
Western Sahara, the negative repercussions of Israeli
settlement activities, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. On the
soccer issue, he made a point of telling Ward that the king
of Morocco -- in contrast to the strain with Egypt -- had
sent him a very warm congratulatory message after the game.
At the end of the meeting, Bouteflika invited Ward to return
to Algeria in the near future. End summary.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Addressing Common Challenges

2. (C) Visiting Africa Command (AFRICOM) Commander General
William Ward met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
November 25 at the presidential residence. With Bouteflika
were Chief of Staff of the Algerian National Popular Army
(ANP) Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid-Salah, Ministry of
National Defense (MND) Director of External Relations and
Cooperation General Nourredine Mekri, ANP Chief of
Organization and Logistics Major General Abdelhamid Ghriss
and a translator. The Ambassador, General Ward's foreign
policy advisor, Dr. Raymond Brown, the DATT and Poloff
(notetaker) accompanied General Ward to the meeting, which
lasted two hours. Ward emphasized that his visit to Algiers
was symbolic of our countries' growing bilateral
relationship. Africa Command's mission was to assist African
nations address their own security challenges, not to do it
for them. The purpose of his visit, Ward said, was to listen
to Algeria's perspective on enhancing our cooperation as we
seek ways to work together to address common challenges in
Africa. Ward recognized that these challenges were complex
and required development and political solutions, not just
military intervention. Going forward, we sought to cooperate
in areas that Algeria determines are priorities. AFRICOM
welcomed the regional counterterrorism efforts Algeria has
engaged in with neighboring Sahel countries. Algeria is
leading the effort; we will work with Algeria and its
neighbors to assist in eliminating the terrorist threat in
the region.

3. (C) President Bouteflika said that the United States and
Algeria shared a common objective and the will to work
cooperatively in the fight against terrorism. Bouteflika
noted the U.S. and Algeria started to work more closely
together during the Clinton administration when both sides
came to realize they were fighting the same problem.
Bouteflika underscored that after 9/11, Algeria was the first
Arab and Muslim country to send a message of solidarity to
President Bush. Subsequently, despite the unpopularity of
some Bush policies, political and economic relations between
our countries improved. Today, relations were excellent, he
said, noting that Algeria was the United States' second
largest trading partner in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia
and our largest trading partner in Africa. President Obama's
new approach to U.S. foreign policy was "a breath of fresh
air" and well regarded by developing world countries. But
this meant there were also high expectations for his
administration. Bouteflika predicted that our bilateral
relationship would continue in a positive direction. He
commented that the U.S. and Algeria were moving forward with
cooperation, recognizing the value of dialogue across all
leadership levels. In this regard, Bouteflika declared he
was ready to assist Ward and invited him to visit Algeria

Military Cooperation

4. (S) Bouteflika attached importance to Algeria's
military-military cooperation with the United States but
noted that U.S. end-use monitoring requirements contravened
Algeria's national sovereignty. Nonetheless, we had made
progress on training and technical cooperation. Bouteflika
said the capabilities of U.S. and Algerian forces were well
understood in the region. Bouteflika argued that frank,
direct talks were the key to a successful military dialogue,
as well as recognizing that, in some cases, there would be
limits on the extent of cooperation. "Tell us what you want,
and we will tell you what we can do." Algeria, he continued,
wanted to be a strategic partner for the U.S. in the region,
not an adversary.

5. (S) General Ward thanked Bouteflika for his candid
assessment of our mil-mil relationship. He said the
President, secretaries of State and Defense, and US Joint
Chiefs of Staff, all recognized the value of the US-Algeria
partnership. Bouteflika responded that he would help us to
consolidate that partnership. Ward argued that to enhance
our partnership, Algeria needed to tell us how we can
contribute best to achieve mutual objectives. Despite the
bad things sometimes said about AFRICOM, Ward said with a
smile, his command had not been created to take over Africa.
Without missing a beat, Bouteflika replied with an even
bigger smile that he had been unsure about this himself until
Ward came. Ward said that, as we continue our military
dialogue, we want to do the things Algeria tells us are
important. Ward affirmed Algeria had long recognized the
challenge of extremism and demonstrated its ability to fight
back. AFRICOM would do its part to support Algeria and its
neighbors in this effort. Addressing Bouteflika's point on
end-use-monitoring requirements, Ward suggested focusing our
efforts in areas where cooperation was possible, i.e.,
training and equipping. He acknowledged that some U.S. laws
and regulations may preclude for now Algeria's participation
in other forms of engagement.

Civil-Military Relations

6. (S) Bouteflika underscored that Algeria's military
"absolutely" respected the authority of civilian leadership.
"This is not at all like Turkey," he said. Bouteflika
asserted that the army was forced to take drastic measures
during the violence of the 1990s in order to save the
country. This was a difficult period, but constitutional
rule had been restored. "The house is now in order," he
stressed, "and I can tell you that the army obeys the
civilians. There is one constitution and all obey it."
Bouteflika acknowledged, however, that the problems of the
past still haunted the country. He cited foreign press
reports referring to Algeria as a dictatorship and argued
that the term was sometimes used carelessly. The Algerian
constitution had established the rule of law. In 2004 it was
decided that there was no more historical "revolutionary
legitimacy". The only legitimacy was the constitution.
"Anyone can be a candidate for election, in accordance with
the constitution, even a general." He paused, then grinned
and said, "but the generals realize the difficulties and none
has been a candidate yet."


7. (C) Bouteflika said terrorism in Africa had taken a
dangerous form. The situation in Somalia was hopeless, he
commented. Meanwhile, the Sahel region presented a complex
set of issues. Fortunately, most Sahel countries were
determined to cooperate and have the capability to fight the
threat if they work together. Mauritania expressed a clear
commitment as did Niger, although Bouteflika recognized U.S.
concerns with President Tandja. Mali's full cooperation
remained elusive, however. Mali's policies have failed to
create stability in the north. The result is a lawless
environment in which smuggling, along with arms and drug
trafficking, enable terrorism. Bouteflika said the region
was prepared to tackle this problem, and bilateral and
regional efforts were already underway. In this regard,
Algeria was closely monitoring U.S. military assistance to
Mali and Niger.

8. (S) Ward told Bouteflika that he planned to visit Bamako
after Algiers and would encourage Mali's leaders to cooperate
in the region's counterterrorism efforts. The U.S. was
providing military assistance to Mali, and we hoped it
complemented the work Algeria was doing. Ward emphasized
that, ultimately, defeating terrorism was the responsibility
of the region. Bouteflika expressed his appreciation for
U.S. assistance to Mali and said Algeria also provided aid,
including some equipment. Bouteflika urged the U.S. to tell
Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure that "he cannot be a
friend to the thieves and victims at the same time." Many in
Mali's security services shared the same concern, Bouteflika
asserted. In the past, he said, Algeria has waited for the
chance to debrief terrorist suspects held in Mali, only to
find out later that Malian officials were conducting
negotiations for the terrorist's release back to the
terrorist organizations at the same time. "It is difficult
to cooperate in these conditions," he said. Despite
difficulties, Bouteflika said regional leaders still planned
to convene a security and development summit in Bamako. All
agreed on the need for the summit, he said, but there was
still no set date. Bouteflika said that Algeria would be
open to sharing information with the U.S. regarding Algeria's
cooperation with its neighbors. General Ward said AFRICOM
would do the same for Algeria regarding U.S. initiatives in
the region.


16. (S) The Ward-Bouteflika meeting was significant in a
number of respects. The Algerian president spoke repeatedly
of his readiness to build a strategic relationship with the
US. He transmitted clear readiness for closer coordination
and contact on Sahel counter-terrorism issues. The simple
fact of the meeting with the president was itself a green
light to the military bureaucracy on stepped-up bilateral
military cooperation. Not least, the warm and high-level
official reception provided a powerful antidote to the
persistent negative mythology about Africa Command since the
command's rollout. It was also noteworthy that, in the
presence of three generals, including the chief of staff,
Bouteflika spoke assertively to Ward about civilian control
of the military. He described the revolutionary origins of
military influence in Algeria, said this so-called
revolutionary legitimacy ended in 2004, and the military now
obeys the civilians and they all obey the constitution. In
the course of his regional political review, Bouteflika
delivered Algeria's views on Western Sahara in familiar
terms. But in doing so, he also struck an unusually
positive note about Morocco and the king's message. Clearly,
in the context of the high emotions stirred in Algeria over
the controversial World Cup contest with Egypt, Mohammed VI's
message of congratulations struck a chord with Bouteflika.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.