The Defense Department continues to work with nations in North Africa to promote security and increase stability in the region still feeling the effects of the Arab Spring, Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, told a Senate panel today.
Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are confronting instability and the U.S. military is working to build or strengthen their police and military forces, Dory told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Near eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs.
“Our strategic approach recognizes that developing strong and responsive defense institutions can support regional stability, allowing partner militaries to operate under civilian authority while respecting the rule of law and international human rights,” Dory said in prepared testimony.
The effects of the Arab Spring in North Africa continue to reverberate within the region and beyond its borders into the Sahelian states of sub-Saharan Africa, she said.
Libya remains a key source of instability in North Africa and the Sahel. After the overthrow of Muammar Gadhafi, there is little government infrastructure inside Libya, Dory said, and certainly no tradition of democracy.
Violence is rampant in Libya and the Libyan government is too weak to control its borders and militias provide what security there is. Arms merchants are shipping Libyan weapons out of the country and these arms are fueling instability from Mali westward, Dory said.
“The Department of Defense is prioritizing its assistance to focus on building Libyan security capacity and on improving the Libyan government’s ability to counter terrorism, counter weapons proliferation and secure and destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles,” she said.
The United States will provide general-purpose-force military training for 5,000-8,000 Libyan personnel, Dory said.
“This training effort is intended to help the [Libyan] government build the military it requires to protect government institutions and maintain order,” she said.
The training of Libyan military personnel may begin next year in Bulgaria.
In Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, DOD maintains close military-to-military ties with their military counterparts. All three are engaged in a security dialogue with the United States and “they share our goals of countering terrorism and enhancing cross-border security,” Dory said.
She added, “We engage with the three governments on a bilateral basis every 12-18 months to ensure our shared security goals are aligned and U.S. government security assistance is prioritized accordingly,”
But all three countries, she said, are feeling the effects of terrorism and growing violent extremism.
In Tunisia, the military deserves tremendous credit for supporting and protecting the population during the country’s democratic transition, Dory said. U.S. assistance to the security sector focuses on counterterrorism support, border security training, she said, and a continuation of long-standing U.S. Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training programs.
Algeria remains a critical security partner in countering regional violent extremist organizations, Dory said.
“Its strategic location in the Maghreb, and its long history combating domestic terrorism and violent extremism, make Algeria a linchpin in the struggle against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its affiliates and bringing stability to the region,” she said. “The January 2013 terrorist attack against the In-Amenas oil facility highlighted the growing transnational threats in the region.”
DOD continues to expand engagement with Algeria in cooperation with other U.S. government departments and agencies across a range of activities, to include information sharing and exercises, Dory said.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, she said, has recognized for years that democratic political and economic reforms are needed in his country.
“During the Arab Awakening, he continued to respond to popular demands for change from within Moroccan society,” Dory said of Morocco’s king. “The United States and the Kingdom of Morocco share a long history of bilateral relations that is enduring and expansive.”
A major non-NATO ally, Morocco “has been a strong partner in the struggle against terrorism, and our bilateral military and political cooperation is growing,” she said.