Regional Summit on AQIM Tomorrow

AQIM continues to grab headlines in the Sahel. After releasing a hostage last week, they claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on an army base in Niger on Friday. This follows a separate attack on soldiers near the Niger-Mali border.

Algiers, Algeria

Last week several commenters and I were discussing the meaning of these events, particularly the question of whether AQIM has a coherent strategy. Whatever the case, governments in the region are attempting, yet again, to refine their strategies. Tomorrow, “foreign Ministers from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger will attend [a] one-day meeting” outside of Algiers to discuss counterterrorism measures.

The meeting takes place amidst diplomatic tensions between different countries in the region.

Algeria is the region’s biggest economic and military power with years of experience of fighting an Islamist rebellion on its own territory. But it has been reluctant to get involved in tackling al Qaeda beyond its borders.

“We want to see Algeria take the lead in coordinating a regional response to the AQIM problem. This cannot be sorted out piecemeal or it will just push the threat elsewhere in the region,” said a diplomat in the region.

The talks in the Algerian capital will be the first high-level meeting in years among Saharan states that has been devoted to countering the insurgency.

Relations between the region’s governments reached a low last month after Mali freed four suspected Islamist militants whose release was demanded by al Qaeda in return for sparing the life of French hostage Pierre Camatte.

Algeria and Mauritania withdrew their ambassadors to Mali in protest and the Algerian government said Mali’s actions were playing into the hands of the insurgents.

More on the Algeria-Mauritania-Mali rift here.

Regional leaders like Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure have been calling for such a summit for a long time, and planned summits were repeatedly postponed. Does that indicate a lack of political will to cooperate? And does this summit signal a change? We’ll have to see, though some are already skeptical. And as one final thought, does the presence of countries like Burkina Faso and Chad (rather than just Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Algeria) signal a change in the level of regional concern over the issue of AQIM? And will Morocco’s absence hurt the summit’s prospects for success? A lot of questions.

6 thoughts on “Regional Summit on AQIM Tomorrow

  1. Just a quick thought, I really don’t think Morocco’s absence matters, unless you’re paranoid about a Polisario connection to AQIM. And until AQIM starts attacking Morocco, I’m not going to be losing sleep over that one.

    …so in short, I don’t know what Morocco would really bring to the table, unless you want to expand the conference’s mandate to talking about transnational drug/contraband smuggling issues. Which should probably happen, but won’t in the near future.

  2. Interesting and informative post. There is a lot of feeling in Mauritania and in Mali that AQIM is run by the Algerians themselves (via its military intelligence) and is part of a ploy to extend its influence south and to gain western support by playing the terror card. That view is influencing some people in politically relevant positions (in Mauritania at least; Malians have suspicions about AQIM too), and they tie it to AFRICOM. That needs to be addressed because the mutual suspicion between the countries’ militaries (and people) needs to be overcome if solutions are going to come around.

    I’d agree with Andrew that Morocco’s absence doesn’t hurt things much. Their presence might be more counter productive than anything if they were to attend. But they have been left out of regional meetings before. I think the inclusion of BF and Chad speaks to a show of force (to outsiders) and that the concern over AQIM is broader than it was some months ago.

  3. I fully agree with what Kal is saying about feelings and perceptions of Algeria always wanting to call the shots. This article from Le Temps d’Alger link below) will make a lot of noise tomorrow in Nouakchott as it indicates that Mauritania is trying to follow the example of Mali in trying to release 67 djihadists it has in its cells in Nouakchott. It is either a warning from Algiers to Nouakchott not to do like Bamako for the release of Pierre Camatte or the article is an unguided missile from the journal. Salima Tlemçani from El Watan – thought by some as the conduit for Algeria’s DRS messages – has conveyed the same warning in an article some 10 days ago.,13905

    The big question is: will Mali attend the Algiers meeting tomorrow? I do not think so because Algiers never wanted to attend the Heads of State Security Conference in Bamako that ATT was calling for for the last 2-3 years. You add at the top of this ATT been personally attacked for a year by Algiers with accusations of being part of the drug and hostages ransom business. Excellent if Mali attend to try to start solving the bad blood between Algiers and Bamako on this AQIM mess, whoever has done something wrong. The other risk is Libya not coming to avoid giving a hand to Algeria’s obvious hegemonistic aim to control the whole of Sahara-Sahel and the Great Leader like to put his points accross when Libya’s hegemonistic aim is blocked by anyone.

    A mistake not having “forced” Sénégal to attend. Forcing its way around in the Sahel-Sahara is the perception lots of people have of Algiers in the area. True or false, it is a perception. But perceptions count more than reality.

    If these bedfelows come to an agreement to stop this unneccessary violence, good. Otherwise, bonjour les dégats. Some will use the Tuaregs to steer more trouble from time to time, for some long time.

  4. Pingback: AQIM Summit Follow-Up « Sahel Blog

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  6. Interpellation de deux suspects au Mali pour
    leur implication dans le trafic de drogue.

    Les Services de sécurité maliens ont interpellé, dans la matinée du 20 mars 2011, deux individus pour leur implication présumée dans l’affaire du Boeing de la Coke en provenance du Venezuela qui s’était posé le 05 novembre 2009 dans une piste artisanale près de la localité d’Al Moustarat (dans la région de Gao) où il a déchargé environ 10 tonnes de cocaïne, ainsi que d’autres produits illicites, avant d’être incendié par ses utilisateurs.
    L’arrestation des deux suspects, dont l’un s’identifie à Didi Ould Sidi Mohamed alias Didi Rgueibi, s’inscrit dans la suite des enquêtes déclenchées dans le cadre de l’instruction du dossier du pilote français Eric Vernay, interpellé depuis le 08 mars 2011 à Bamako et remis aux services d’Interpol pour son implication dans le trafic de drogue à l’échelle internationale.
    Une source proche de l’enquête révèle que Didi Rgueibi est un élément du polisario originaire des camps de Tindouf, ayant rejoint ultérieurement le Mali où il a été recruté par un puissant réseau local, en raison de sa maitrise de la langue espagnole, qualité qui lui a valu d’être l’interprète attitré entre les chefs de ce réseau et leurs associés latino-américains. D’ailleurs, certaines indications précisent qu’il était présent lors de l’incident de l’avion précité et qu’il avait accompagné le trafiquant latino-américain qui avait encadré le balisage pour l’atterrissage au désert du Boeing chargé de cocaïne.
    Didi Rgueibi est aussi signalé pour ses contacts avec un trafiquant espagnol, qui dirige la structure criminelle malienne du réseau international de trafic de cocaïne qui dispose de relais en Amérique Latine, en Afrique de l’ouest, en Europe et au Maroc où sa structure affiliée avait été démantelée par les Services de sécurité marocains au cours du mois d’octobre 2010.
    Didi Rgueibi, dont les enquêtes ont révélé des contacts étroits avec les principaux barons de drogue opérant au nord du Mali, est aussi connu pour ses contacts avec des éléments pro-séparatistes dans les camps de Tindouf et qui entretiennent des rapports de longue date avec les circuits logistiques proches d’AQMI.

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