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Cablegate: Africom Commander's Discussions with French

VZCZCXRO5527
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHFR #0030/01 0111730
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 111730Z JAN 10 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8041
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 2159
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 1240
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000030

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y FOR ADDITION OF NOFORN (NF) CAPTION

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, AF/EPS
DEPT PLEASE PASS USAID

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2020
TAGS: PTER PREL EAID PGOV PINR MOPS MA NG MR NI
AG, CH, SG, FR
SUBJECT: AFRICOM COMMANDER'S DISCUSSIONS WITH FRENCH
OFFICIALS ON AQIM AND OTHER AFRICA SECURITY THREATS

REF: A. 09 PARIS 1339
B. NIAMEY 11

PARIS 00000030 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: Andrew Young, Political Counselor, reason 1.4 (b and d).

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: President Sarkozy's Diplomatic Advisor
Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's Military Advisor, Admiral
Edouard Guillaud, and others briefed U.S. AFRICOM Commander
General William E. Ward on January 5 on security issues in
Africa's Sahel region. The French pressed for additional
coordination (military assistance, intelligence sharing, and
development projects) in helping countries confront al-Qa'ida
in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In France's view, Mauritania
could be the "spearhead" against AQIM, Niger positively
"surprised" with its recent military engagement, but Mali
remains "confrontation-averse." Other topics covered
included France's African military bases, concerns about
Senegal, the risk of a backlash against China, and
hostage-taking trends. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) U.S. AFRICOM Commander General William E. Ward was
invited to Paris for consultations January 5-6. He discussed
the al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) threat in
Africa's Sahel region with President Sarkozy's Diplomatic
Advisor (NSC Jones equivalent) Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's
Military Advisor, Admiral Edouard Guillaud, Guillaud's
Deputy, COL Eric Bucquet, and Elysee Africa Advisor Remi
Marechaux. Later in that meeting, and at a subsequent dinner
hosted by Guillaud (Levitte did not attend) the group
continued to discuss a broad range of African security
issues. General Ward was joined by SOCAF's BG Haas and Polad
Dr. Brown, DAO staff, and Embassy Paris Africa Watcher. On
January 6, General Ward participated in media events and
later held meetings with French intelligence and security
officials (reported separate channels).

THE AQIM THREAT -- WE NEED CLOSER COOPERATION
---------------------------------------------
3. (S) During the initial meeting, Guillaud, Levitte, and
Marechaux provided France's assessment of AQIM's current
activities and capabilities (focusing on Mali, Mauritania,
and Niger), which was strikingly similar to the French
assessment provided to AF A/S Carson and other USG officials
on September 10, 2009 during the U.S.-France Sahel Security
conference in Paris (Ref A). Notably, France views AQIM as a
limited, but active and dangerous threat composing
approximately 150 dedicated fighters. The group's intel and
logistics capacity remains potent, as evidenced by recent
kidnapping of western hostages, which were quickly moved to
AQIM comfort zones in Northern Mali ("crossing two thousand
kilometers of desert in a couple of days8).

4. (S/NF) Guillaud asserted that AQIM represents France's
greatest security concern, and it is vital that the group
gains neither legitimacy nor broader operational space.
Chad, Northern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Libya, and
even Tunisia are at risk of AQIM influence if Mali, in
particular, does not contain it -- with U.S. and French
assistance. He assessed Mauritania as the most effective of
the three countries in confronting AQIM and should be viewed
as the "spearhead." At the same time, Guillaud was "happily
surprised" by the aggressive tactics used recently by Niger's
army,s successful fight with AQIM elements in Niger. (Note:
Marechaux later shared with AF-Watcher a classified report
clarifying that Guillaud was referring to the late December
incident also reported in Ref B. End note.) Noting current
USG policy restrictions vis-a-vis Niger, Guillaud recommended
the U.S. soften its stance on military cooperation since in
the mid- to long-term it would be counterproductive for
security reasons especially as Niger is inclined to fight
AQIM. In his view, Mali's President Toure remains
"confrontation-averse."

5. (S/NF) Guillaud and Levitte expressed appreciation for
the improving coordination between the U.S. and France in
supporting host country CT efforts, but noted that there
remained room for improvement. They stated that President
Sarkozy has personally requested French agencies to reach out
to U.S. counterparts. France wants better coordination --

PARIS 00000030 002.2 OF 003


not competition -- with the U.S. in a cohesive manner that
includes discussions of military cooperation, enhanced
intelligence sharing, and complimentary development
assistance. Uniquely in the Sahel region, Guillaud claimed
that he and his staff coordinated all three activities on
behalf of the GOF. Even projects funded by France's
development agency (AFD) in the region are approved by
Guillaud's office. Levitte added that a more open
U.S.-France approach is necessary to discourage host
countries from attempting to "play us off each other." He
emphasized that U.S.-French cooperation should be discreet
and that there is no need to tell the other countries in the
region our level of cooperation )- we should stay below the
radar. (Note: Guillaud is expected to depart his current
post in approximately one month to become France's new Chief
of the Joint Staff. End note.)

6. (S/NF) At the same time, there was broad agreement that
our efforts against AQIM must be centered on adding capacity
to the host countries' ability (and political will) for
confronting and defeating AQIM. General Ward added that
France and the U.S. should maintain a low profile and not
create the impression of a western presence that could turn
the region into a new jihadist call to arms.

7. (S/NF) There was agreement that confronting the AQIM
threat must also have Algeria's participation, but that
requires a different approach than is envisioned for the
three sub-Saharan countries.

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