Secretary Clinton, Algeria, and Mali

As Mali’s interlocking crises continue and regional and international powers work to plan a military intervention for 2013, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Algeria yesterday. The State Department has the text of Sec. Clinton’s remarks following her meeting with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. An excerpt:

We had an in-depth discussion of the region, particularly the situation in Mali. I very much appreciated the President’s analysis, based on his long experience, as to the many complicated factors that have to be addressed to deal with the internal insecurity in Mali and the terrorist and drug trafficking threat that is posed to the region and beyond. And we have agreed to continue with in-depth expert discussions, to work together bilaterally and with the region – along with the United Nations, and the African Union, and ECOWAS – to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking.

Reuters quotes an anonymous US official:

“The secretary underscored … that it is very clear that a political process and our counter-terrorism efforts in Mali need to work in parallel,” the official said.

“We have an awful lot at stake here, and an awful lot of common interests, and there’s a strong recognition that Algeria has to be a central part of the solution,” the senior U.S. official told reporters traveling with Clinton.

VOA and AP have more.

Algerian-Malian relations are increasingly a subject of discussion in the international media and in US policy circles. The Moor Next Door recently rounded up new reports on the topic by Dr. Anouar Boukhars at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the journalist Peter Tinti, Alexis Arieff of the Congressional Research Service, and others.

Finally, it is worth mentioning Mauritania in the context of Sec. Clinton’s visit to Algeria. Prior to the shooting of Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on October 13, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights María Otero had been scheduled to visit Mauritania from October 15-17. The visit has been postponed. While Otero’s stated agenda for discussion emphasized Mauritanian domestic issues, the trip – which the State Department called “the most senior-level U.S. State Department visit to Mauritania in five years” – would, I imagine, have touched on Mauritania’s relations with Mali as well. Additionally, General Carter Ham of US AFRICOM visited Mauritania, Morocco, and Algeria in September, a tour that focused on the Malian crises. Senior US officials, in other words, are regularly reaching out to northwest African governments in connection with Mali, especially (but not only) Algeria, a key US partner on security issues in the region.