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TESTIMONY: Hearing on Counterterrorism in Africa's Sahel Region
The African Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing November 17, 2009, to discuss the U.S. government&#39;s counterterrorism approach in Africa&#39;s Sahel region. <br /> <br />Several interagency officials
The African Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing November 17, 2009, to discuss the U.S. government's counterterrorism approach in Africa's Sahel region. Several interagency officials from two panels testified including: Panel 1: Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary for African Affairs, Department of State Daniel Benjamin, coordinator for counterterrorism, Department of State Vicki Huddleston, deputy assistant secretary for Africa, Department of Defense Earl Gast, acting assistant administrator for Africa, U.S. Agency for International Development Panel 2: Lianne Kennedy-Boudali, senior project associate, RAND Corporation Dr. David Gutelius, partner of Ishtirak and consulting senior fellow at John Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory's National Security Analysis Department The witnesses addressed security concerns relating to the Sahel region, in particular threats by criminal groups and terrorist organizations, such as Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). According to Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), who chaired the hearing, the region's borders and ungoverned spaces have been exploited by criminal groups, particularly for the trafficking of drugs, weapons, illicit goods, and people. AQIM and other violent extremist groups are recently of increasing concern in the region. "AQIM, as it is known, emerged in Algeria and has primarily operated in North Africa, but it has extended its reach into parts of the Sahel and could expand farther," said Feingold. "Some U.S. intelligence officials have expressed concern at AQIM's increasing capabilities and more sophisticated attacks." Following is the complete transcript of the testimony: Hearing of the African Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "Examining U.S. Counterterrorism Priorities and Strategy Across Africa's Sahel Region." Chaired by: Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) SEN. FEINGOLD: (Sounds gavel.) This hearing will come to order. Good morning everybody. I apologize in advance, it looks like that I think we're going to have three votes or so starting at about 11:15, maybe a little earlier. See if we can get through the first panel by then. But I do appreciate everybody's patience if we have to take a break in the hearing. On behalf of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, I welcome all of you to this hearing entitled "Examining U.S. Counterterrorism Priorities and Strategy Across Africa's Sahel Region." I am honored to be joined later by the ranking member of the subcommittee, Senator Isakson. When he arrives, I will ask him to deliver some opening remarks as well. Let me first clarify what constitutes the Sahel region. This region covers those territories on the southern border and directly to the south of the Sahara desert. For our discussion today, it includes parts of all of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. The Sahel is a region on the frontlines of climate change, facing the challenges of soil erosion, deforestation and desertification. It also is a vast land area home to nomadic communities, many of them minority ethnic groups, which have long been in conflict with some of the centralized state authorities in those regions. Over the years, this region's long, porous borders and ungoverned spaces have been exploited by criminal groups, particularly for the trafficking of drugs, weapons, illicit goods and people. And over the last decade, there has been increasing concern about the potential for violent extremist groups to do so as well. Counterterrorism officials have particularly focused on an al Qaeda affiliate, a group known as Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb. AQIM, as it is known, emerged in Algeria and has primarily operated in North Africa, but it has extended its reach into parts of the Sahel and could expand farther. Some U.S. intelligence officials have expressed concern at AQIM's increasing capabilities and more sophisticated attacks. Today's hearing is an opportunity to assess the threat posed by AQIM amidst other transnational threats in the Sahel region. This is yet another reminder that al Qaeda is operating in countries around the globe, and our fight against them therefore must be global too. The administration is right to focus attention on the Pakistan- Afghanistan region, but we cannot lose sight of other places where al Qaeda is seeking to gain ground. As we have seen in Somalia and Yemen, weak states, chronic instability, ungoverned spaces and unresolved local tensions can create almost ideal safe havens in which terrorists can recruit and operate. Several parts of the Sahel region include that same mix of ingredients. And the danger they pose, not just to regional security, but to our own national security is real. At the same time, crafting an effective counterterrorism strategy toward the Sahel requires an appreciation of the unique local conditions that al Qaeda seeks to exploit and the factors that could motivate individuals to join their struggle. We need to understand ongoing changes and conflicts, political, economic and social that are shaping this region. Without an appreciation of these local dynamics, injecting new U.S. resources into the region could actually end up complicating or even exacerbating the threat rather than mitigating it. We need to seriously consider how short-term activities relate to our long-term goals of promoting good governance and the rule of law. In 2005, the Bush administration launched the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership to enhance the capabilities of governments across the Sahel as well as in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia for counter-terrorism and to help confront the spread of extremist ideology. Nearly $500 million has been allocated for this program since fiscal year 2005. Yet, nearly five years later, it remains unclear to what extent these efforts have been successful. Today's hearing is an opportunity to review our approach to counterterrorism in the Sahel, the continuing challenges, and what progress has been made. Because this is not in a classified setting, I realize we are limited in how much we can get into specific activities. But we can discuss the overall strategy and priorities of our counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel and the roles played by the different implementing agencies. I believe it is important that we can explain to the American people at least generally what we're doing and why they should be confident that our efforts are making progress. Let me just briefly introduce our witnesses this morning. I'm very pleased that we have such great interagency line up for our first panel. From the Department of Defense deputy assistant secretary for Africa, Vicki Huddleston; from USAID acting assistant administrator for Africa, Earl Gast; and from the State Department assistant secretary for African affairs, Johnnie Carson. In addition, State is also represented by its coordinator for counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin. Ambassador Benjamin's presence here is particularly important because while this subcommittee approaches issues from the lens of sub-Saharan Africa, the threat from AQIM cuts across regions and the traditional boundaries of state department's regional bureaus. So I thank all of you for being here and ask that each of you keep your remarks to five minutes or less, so that we have enough time for questions and discussion. And of course, we will submit your longer written statements for the record. Our second panel, we'll hear from Dr. David Gutelis who brings together a unique mix of expertise on this region and technological innovation and media strategies. Dr. Gutelis was a visiting professor at Stanford University. He founded and is currently a partner of Ishtirak, a Middle East and Islamic Africa focused consultancy. He's also a consulting senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory's National Security Analysis Department. We also hear from Lianne Kennedy-Boudali, who has done research and written about the history and evolution of armed group in the Maghreb and Sahel regions. Ms. Kennedy-Boudali was a senior associate and assistant professor at the Combating Terrorism Center, West Point, and now works as a senior project associate at the RAND Corporation. So again, I thank all of our witnesses for being here. And now I will, unless the ranking member shows up in the next couple of seconds -- is he going to -- we'll do his statement later when he comes. So I'll turn to Ms. Huddleston. Oh, came within just -- just as I was about to turn to witnesses. Pleased to recognize for his opening statement, Senator Johnny Isakson, the ranking member. SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-GA): I'll waive my opening statement except to say welcome to Secretary Carson, it's good to see you again, and all of our witnesses. Counterterrorism is of particular interest. In my travels to Africa, I've been very interested in seeing our engagement is thorough on that continent because the potential for some very dangerous things could happen, very well could take place. So I welcome you all here. I apologize, Mr. Chair, for being late. And it's good to be with you. SEN. FEINGOLD: I thank you, Senator Isakson, and we'll begin with Honorable Johnnie Carson. MR. CARSON: Chairman Feingold, Ranking Member Isakson, other members of the Committee, I welcome the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our support to the countries of Africa's Sahel region to approve their long-term security and to constrict the ability of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, lands of the Maghreb. I have a longer statement that I would like to submit for the record if I may. SEN. FEINGOLD: (Off mike.) MR. CARSON: Terrorism in the Sahel has become an issue of increasing concern. Over the past five years, AQIM and its predecessor organization the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, GSPC, has stepped up their activities across the Sahel. In the past six months alone, AQIM has been implicated in the killing of an American NGO worker in Nouakchott, Mauritania, the execution of a British hostage in Mali, the assassination of a senior Malian military officer and an attempted suicide bombing against the French embassy in Nouakchott. The countries in the region have recognized the problem and have intensified their efforts against AQIM. Algeria recently hosted regional chiefs of defense to promote improved cooperation. And we understand that Mali will organize a heads of state meeting in Bamako to address the situation soon. However, all the countries in the Sahel face daunting challenges. They are among the poorest countries in the world and lack the resources to develop effective anti-terrorism programs on their own. They are also vast countries stretching over thousands of miles where government services and authority are weak or nonexistent. They are preoccupied with critical humanitarian and development issues, and in some cases terrorism is not the most pressing challenge. The United States is committed to helping these countries address the counterterrorism problems that these face -- these states face in the Sahel. However, we believe that this is best done in a supporting role rather than a leading role. We want to avoid undertaking actions that could make the situation worse. We must consult with the governments of the region to assess their needs. We must encourage regional collaboration and cooperation across borders. We must consult with our European partners and urge them to be helpful. We have emphasized to those partners that while the United States will do its part, the burden must be shared by us all. We've also stressed that we must make sure that the assistance we in the United States provide does not aggravate long-standing historical and cultural problems that exist in some of the states in the region. Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and others in the region can manage and contain this issue if they work together and receive appropriate encouragement and support from countries like the United States. We should not seek to take this issue over. It is not ours, and doing so might have negative consequences for U.S. interests over the long-term. We must also recognize that the governments in the region have explicitly stated that the Sahel security is the responsibility of the countries in the region. They have not asked the United States to take on a leadership role in the counterterrorism efforts. In fact, that they have clearly signaled that a more visible or militarily proactive posture by the United States might in some instances be counterproductive. The focal point of our effort has been the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership created in 2005. TSCTP allocates between $120 (million) and $150 million per year for programs in 10 countries. TSCTP originally included Algeria, Chad, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. Burkina Faso was added in 2009. TSCTP program reflects our recognition that sporadic engagements without adequate follow-up or sustainment would fail to achieve the meaningful long-lasting results that we seek in the region. The emphasis therefore has been placed on addressing key capacity shortfalls that could be addressed over a period of years in these countries. The program draws resources and expertise from multiple agencies in the U.S. government including the State Department, the Department of Defense and USAID. TSCTP does not provide a one-size-fits-all assistance package. As the current threat levels prevail in the region, we look at the states on a case by case basis and adjust the program to meet the needs of the countries. We will continue to work with the countries in the region to identify capacity, weaknesses, and to ensure that TSCTP programs are adequately funded. Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to make this brief statement, and I will be happy to answer questions. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Mr. Carson. Mr. Benjamin? MR. BENJAMIN: Senator Feingold, Ranking Member Senator Isakson, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today about the Department's role in countering terrorism in the Sahel region. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb continues to menace parts of the Maghreb and the Sahel. In the north, it is frustrated by Algeria's effective counterterrorism operations, but in parts of the Sahel, it continues to operate with considerable impunity. We are working bilaterally, regionally, and multilaterally to develop the capacity of countries in the region to control their sovereign territory, disrupt terrorist conspiracies and counter those who advocate violence. A well-thought out long-term approach provides the best opportunity to ensure our security and that of our friends and allies against the terrorist threats from this region. AQIM has failed to meet its key objectives and, under pressure from Algerian security forces, is on the defensive in Algeria. AQIM is financially strapped. Indeed it appears that the Algerians have AQIM in the northeastern part of the country increasingly contained and marginalized. The group has largely worn out its welcome in the Kabyle region, where residents have become increasingly resentful of its presence. One of the central questions about AQIM has long been whether it would be able to establish itself in Europe and carry out attacks there. Some of our closest counterterrorism partners in Europe have identified this possibility of infiltration as one of their foremost concerns. That said we currently view the near-term possibility of such an expansion of operations as less likely than it was just a few years ago. In the Sahel, however, the picture is different. AQIM maintains two separate groups of fighters in Northern Mali, and has recently increased attacks and kidnappings, including against Western targets. The group relies to a considerable extent on hostage-taking for ransom while carrying out murders, and low-level attacks to garner media attention. In the last two years, AQIM in the Sahel has stepped up the pace. It has kidnapped two Austrian tourists along the Tunis-Algerian border in early 2008, two Canadian diplomats in Niger in December 2008, four European tourists near the Mali/Niger border in January of this year. One of the Europeans, a British hostage, was subsequently murdered by AQIM as you all know. AQIM has also increased other kinds of attacks in the Sahel. This year, the group killed a Malian official in Northern Mali, an American NGO worker in nearby Mauritania, and attempted a suicide bombing outside the French Embassy in Mauritania. Despite the uptick in violence, hostage-taking and the murder of individual Western citizens, we believe that these operations reveal some AQIM weaknesses. AQIM has failed to conduct attacks or operations in Morocco, Tunisia or Libya. The Muslim population in the Sahel and the Maghreb, as a whole, still rejects AQIM's extremism. There are exceptions, however, and the increase in AQIM recruitment in Mauritanian is troubling. That said, if we play our cards right, we can further contain and marginalize AQIM's threat to U.S. interests, and we can make investments that would be productive and reasonable. We are striving to build countries' capacities through long-term programs such as the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. We are also working closely with other key international partners to ensure that our collective efforts in the region are well-targeted, well-coordinated and effective. A quiet but solid support for their counterterrorism, that is those in the region, has emboldened our partners to stand up to extremism. We have been, if you will, "leading from the side." These partners have shown the will to take on terrorists in the past and we expect that that, that will continue. Our support to military and law enforcement capacity building has led to stronger control of borders and remote spaces, and that continues to improve. Our programs for countering violent extremism such as radio programming, messaging from moderate leaders, prison reform have bolstered the region's traditionally moderate inclinations. We believe that our relatively modest efforts in the region are paying off and are worthy of continuation. A steady long-term commitment to building effective security in the region will benefit the United States by enabling others to take the lead in stopping terrorists in their own countries before those threats reach our borders. These countries have made it clear that they do not want the United States to take a more direct or visible operational role, but welcome assistance from the United States and other third countries. We are particularly pleased that our regional partners are working together to weaken AQIM, motivated in part by the group's recent atrocities. In August, Algeria hosted a conference for high- level defense ministry representatives from Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Algeria to coordinate AQIM efforts, and we expect Mali to follow that up with a regional heads of state summit before the end of the year. We are also working with our European partners with whom we met in Paris last month on this issue, specifically to coordinate assistance to our partners in the Sahel and the Maghreb. Additionally, we have met with Canadian officials to discuss cooperation in the wake of the hostage-taking of their diplomats. I should add that building capacity is not the only contribution that Western partners can make to defeating terrorism in the region. It is also imperative that we do what we can to remove incentives for kidnapping. This administration plans to make a broader acceptance of the no-concessions approach an important initiative. In closing, let me reiterate. We welcome the readiness of our partners in the region to take the lead in confronting AQIM, and we are pleased about the cooperation among our Western allies as we take effective steps to help build security in the Sahel. This cooperation, I strongly believe, will help fulfill the vision of working in partnership with other nations in troubled areas that has been a hallmark of President Obama's foreign policy. I also believe also that we -- as we continue to provide support, using the TSCTP as our primary tool, we will achieve our goal of reducing the danger AQIM poses to the region and to American interests. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you very much, Mr. Benjamin. Mr. Gast? MR. GAST: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Isakson. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the role USAID is playing in the fight against terrorism in Africa's Sahel region. Terrorism is a challenge that has plagued U.S. government work around the world. In Africa, our efforts to improve governance and create opportunity are increasingly threatened by the emerging forces of violent extremism. To counter the forces that would derail our progress toward development in this fragile region, USAID is working in concert with the Departments of Defense and the State in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership to define how development assistance can most effectively be used to contribute to long-term peace and stability. Because of the dearth of information about the drivers of extremism in Africa that existed in 2005 when the program started, USAID commissioned two studies; one to aggregate and supplement what was known, and one to apply those findings to programs that would address those drivers. The studies highlighted the complex nature of extremism and showed that an overarching "root cause," such as poverty, is often just one of many factors that contribute to radicalization. Rather a number of factor often work together. For instance, corruption undermines state capacity and facilitates the emergence of ungoverned or poorly governed spaces, which, in turn, may provide opportunities for extremist groups and local conflicts to flourish. These findings are critical to our decision making and inform what interventions will be the most effective toward preventing drivers of extremism from spiraling out of control. Youth empowerment, education, media and good governance are the four areas where we see the greatest opportunity for local partnerships and progress. Unlike traditional development programs, our counter-extremism efforts often target narrow populations and we specifically reach out to young men, the group most likely to be recruited by extremist groups. While it can be different to measure success in countering extremism, we have seen some progress in our efforts. As a result of our outreach in Chad, the Association of Nomads and Herders has created a youth branch of its organization. Youth participation in organizations like this one helps to build stronger ties with the community and provides youth with a voice in society. This type of empowerment can greatly reduce the feelings of marginalization that feeds into recruitment into extremist groups. In the uranium-mining areas of northern Niger, communities have formed listening clubs to discuss USAID-funded radio programs on good governance. One club even reports that they are pooling funds together to purchase a phone card so that they can call the radio station with feedback. But despite the promise of these community-based efforts, national governance has seen a setback in Niger. The recent referendum and sham elections have done more to empower the current anti-democratic regime than to provide a voice for the people, and we are concerned about the path the regime is taking. For our programs to be successful, we must invest in strong local partnerships, and our methods of engagement must be nimble and creative. Because trends in extremism are fluid, we must constantly reassess our priorities, our progress and our policies to ensure that our work is based on the realities of today. Toward this end, we are pleased with our strong and productive partnership in the interagency. Sustained engagement, within the U.S. government, with other donor governments and with our partners in the Trans-Sahara region will be the key to combating extremism today and securing peace and stability for years to come. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Isakson. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Mr. Gast. Ms. Huddleston? MS. HUDDLESTON: Senator Feingold and Ranking Member Isakson, thank you for the invitation to testify today about the Department of Defense' role in the Sahel region. DOD is the third pillar of the 3-D approach, diplomacy, development and defense, in the Sahel and Maghreb region to address the challenges posed by al Qaeda in the land of the Islamic Maghreb known as you said Mr. Chairman as AQIM. Under the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, we have a comprehensive approach that addresses political, developmental issues. Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, coordinator for counterterrorism Dan Benjamin and USAID acting director for Africa Earl Gast have all addressed the underlying political, ethnic and geographic challenges. So I will focus my remarks principally on the military dimension. The Department of Defense, through primarily U.S. Africa Command, is supporting an overarching U.S. government strategy to counter AQIM in the Sahel and North Africa. The principle DOD activity supporting the TSCTP effort is operation Enduring Freedom-Trans-Sahara, OEFTS, which focuses on building the capacity of regional militaries, so that they can counter the presence of AQIM and prevent terrorist operations in those areas. In addition, through our DOD military training, equipping and advising activities, we seek to foster greater coordination and cooperation among the security institutions in the region. We believe that the long-term solution must be that each nation is capable of governing and controlling its territory with professional military accountable to civilian governments that have the support of local populations. If this is not the case, then those who espouse violent extremism and acts of terrorism, even if temporarily deterred, will return to the ungoverned spaces. DOD military cooperation programs and activities span a broad spectrum from relatively simple outreach in humanitarian related efforts through academic courses and education programs to tactical and operational-level training and exercises, sharing military advice, information and equipment to enable our partner nations to carry out military operations. The U.S. Africa Command train and liaison missions, use our special forces in support of the OEF-TS mission objectives throughout the Sahel. Algeria and Mali are critical to leading and resolving the challenge posed by AQIM. The AQIM leadership is headquartered in Algeria, the majority of its members are Algerian and most of its attacks, as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, had began -- have been against the Algerian targets. AQIM's rear base or safe haven has been in Mali since 2002. Near neighbors namely Mauritania, Niger and Chad have all been negatively impacted by AQIM attacks over the past several years. Our military relationship with Algeria is designed to support our mutual security interests. Algeria is working with Mali to bring the region together around a common solution acceptable to the countries that are directly involved. Algeria, indeed the region, and our allies, as Benjamin pointed out, believe that a solution is only possible when the response is coordinated and implemented through a regional approach. Mali is a major recipient of DOD of military cooperation efforts in the Sahel receiving equipment in FY 2009 through security assistance resources as well as Section 1206 authority. In addition, DOD has carried out over 10 training events with the Malian military throughout the year, an extremely high tempo for operations and tactical training. President Amadou Toure and the chief of the Malian military General Poudiougou have consistently expressed their appreciation for our assistance in helping them address the challenges posed by AQIM. And President Toure has said that he is committed to a regional summit to coordinate efforts across the board to counter AQIM. DOD military cooperation activities with Mauritania were suspended in August of 2008 following with military coup there. Military cooperation is now restarting following this country's return to a constitutional system in July of 2009. AFRICOM planning has already begun with exercises and training to start after January of 2010 and possibly equipment enhancement starting at the end of FY '10. Unfortunately, our cooperation with Niger is limited because the President Tandja's decision to suspend the constitution. U.S. military cooperation with Niger prior to January 2008 was good, similar in scope and effort to the current activities in Mali. We hope that President Tandja will return to a democratic and constitutional framework so that AFRICOM can again with Niger. Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member -- SEN. FEINGOLD: I'm going to ask you to conclude if you could. MS. HUDDLESTON: -- your invitation asked me to address our interagency coordination related our Sahel programs. The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership is a good example of bringing of together State, USAID and DOD to address an issue that impacts the stability and growth up the North and West Africa. Thank you for this opportunity to discuss DOD's efforts and AFRICOM's role as part of the larger U.S. chief government effort in addressing the challenges posed by AQIM in the Sahel and Maghreb regions of Africa. My colleagues and I look forward to answering your questions. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Mr. Huddleston. I think all of you and start with around seven minutes rounds, and I hope that each of us can get around and before the vote start. Yes, sir, Benjamin, as you say in your testimony, there's been a long concern about AQIM's ability to establish itself in Europe and carry out attacks there. You said that we view the near time likelihood of such an expansion of those operations as less likely than before. But as you know, the AP recently reported the arrest in Italy and elsewhere in Europe of 17 Algerians suspected of raising money to finance terrorism. Do we believe that AQIM is still trying to gain a foothold and carry out attacks in Europe, and to what extent does this continue to be a pressing concern for our European partners? MR. BENJAMIN: Senator Feingold, it certainly remains a high concern for our European partners. I think that at the moment, it would be safe to characterize AQIM activity outside of Africa, and particularly in Europe, as being aspirational and focused at the moment more on fundraising and logistics, and they have not yet acquired an operational capability on the continent. That said, it remains a high priority. But judging by what we know about the goings on within the group and also the very strong capacities of Algerian law enforcement and also French intelligence, we believe that the group's ability to project itself has been somewhat degraded and that as I said in my testimony it's probably less likely than before. That said, we are always confronted with the same problem in terrorism, and that is it's like -- it's an arena in which small numbers can make a big difference and you can ensure that you can detect every small number, every operative, every small cell. I think we are fairly confident in our assessment, but nonetheless we can't be absolutely certain that nothing would happen. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you. Your testimony states that quote "Our capacity building assistance has enabled Niger and Chad to take on anti-regime rebels successfully." Is this a reference to AQIM or to other opponents of the regimes? MR. BENJAMIN: It's primarily a reference to other rebel groups, Senator. SEN. FEINGOLD: And isn't that outside the scope of the Trans- Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership? Isn't there some risk that if we're providing general support to these abusive governments that we could fuel anti-American attitudes and undermine our over-arching counter-terrorism goals? MR. BENJAMIN: It's certainly true that the fundamental goal here is -- MR. : Can't hear. MR. BENJAMIN: Sorry, it's certainly true that the fundamental target of this assistance is al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, but as a general rule this is about capacity building, and capacity building often allows governments to strengthen themselves and extend their control over larger periods of -- larger areas of territory. Perhaps Secretary Carson would like to add to that. MR. CARSON: Let me just, Mr. Chairman, say that we are constantly monitoring how our assistance is used by different governments not only in the Sahel, but across Africa. The last thing that we want to do is to provide governments -- bad governments with the capacity to inflict harm on their people, to carry out human rights violations. So we do monitor these assistance programs very, very carefully, and in the case of a country like Chad, Chad has been subject to invasions from rebels coming across the border from Sudan, and in some of those instances it is believed that those rebels have received assistance from foreign governments. In those instances, we think that it is important to help governments strengthen their capacity to defend against rebel groups and rebel incursions. Now, this may not in fact be money that comes exclusively or out of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership program, but in fact comes from other assistance that we provide. But as I say this, one of the other things that we're also doing with a country like Chad is also when we extend assistance, we are telling those governments as well that it is important that their militaries operate under civilian control, that they follow human rights norms that are universal, that they not act against their citizens. SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, obviously it's terribly important that we get this right. The nature of these regimes is not something that is something to be very comfortable with, vis-a-vis these kind of activities. So whether it's part of the trans-Sahel or some other source of funding this is something that I'm going to want to monitor closely, and be as fully informed as possible with regard to non-AQIM uses of this capacity that we're help building. Mr. Benjamin, AQIM's activity cuts across several country, involves both the Bureau of African Affairs and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs of the State Department. What mechanisms exist to encourage information sharing and collaboration among the relevant embassies in these two bureaus, and what role does your office play in ensuring that State has a coordinated approach to dealing with AQIM? MR. BENJAMIN: Senator, thank you for that question. The -- one of the virtues of the TSCTP is that it has led us to create I think a more robust coordinating mechanism than we have for many other areas of the world. There is a standing Interagency Working Group for the Trans- Sahara which meets regularly on a monthly basis in Washington with action officers from State, OSD, USAID to discuss issues. There are an enormous number of daily contacts. We also have a regular monthly video conference with AFRICOM. TSCTP has annual conferences that include TCMs (ph) or ambassadors from all the embassies in the region as well as representatives from across the interagency. We also host two Regional Strategic Initiative meetings per year that include the ambassadors and senior interagency representatives. It was the first RSI that I had the pleasure of addressing. So I think that this is one very well-coordinated process. There's always room for improvement, but I think that we're pleased with the way it has worked and that it's a model for cooperation in other geographical areas. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Mr. Benjamin. Senator Isakson. SEN. ISAKSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Carson, and this may apply to someone else as well, feel free to chime in. We had a hearing a few weeks ago in narcotrafficking in West Africa, and with AQIM in that area, are they being financed in part or in whole in terms of narcotic trafficking? MR. CARSON: The groups that are -- the AQIM groups that are operating in the Sahel are engaged in a lot of illicit activities, including smuggling across the border, and probably to include some narcotrafficking as well. We don't have specifics on precisely how they get all of their money, but we do know that they engage in smuggling goods, smuggling and trafficking people, probably moving illegal drugs, and most recently engaging in high-profile kidnappings for ransom of Europeans. SEN. ISAKSON: Thank you. Mr. Daniel, we had a death of a British citizen I believe in Mali or Mauritania, an American citizen there as well. What is the level of cooperation with those governments in bringing the -- those who perpetrated those crimes to justice? MR. BENJAMIN: As a general rule, Senator, the level of cooperation is very high. In fact, one of my colleagues from the British embassy is right behind me. We have met multiple times on a range of counterterrorism issues including this one. I was in Ottawa last month to discuss this and other relevant issues with Canadian officials. In general, we are in touch on a very -- on a very close and regular basis to do what we can, both to prevent such kidnappings and hostage takings and murders, and to deal with them when they happen, but also to track down the offenders and bring them to justice. And there is close cooperation with regional partners as well. SEN. ISAKSON: Were either one of those or both tied to AQIM? MR. BENJAMIN: I believe they both were. SEN. ISAKSON: They both were? MR. BENJAMIN: Yes, the American NGO worker and the British hostage Dyer were both I believe victims of AQIM. SEN. ISAKSON: Well, I know we unfortunately had a Georgian who was a peace corps worker murdered in Benin earlier in the year, and I was -- I want to say again how much I appreciate the government of Benin, which is near here. It's not a part of the partnership, I don't think, but it's just out there. They have done a wonderful job in helping to bring justice to the perpetrator of that crime. Mr. Gast, you made an interesting comment in your remarks, and I wrote it down. You talked about strategies given the realities of the day, and then you made a reference to the four areas you were focusing on, which were youth empowerment, education, government and then young men. Do you find -- I have found in my travels to Africa that some -- in many of the efforts we're making, the vulnerability of young African men to be exploited, or misdirected, for lack of a better term, is one of our single biggest problems. Are you developing any programs that deal directly with young American -- young African men? MR. GAST: A very good question and it's something that we've been struggling with for more than a year is looking at the youth bulge and looking at many of the states that are in conflict now throughout the continent, or just emerging from conflict. They're the very large youth population and a very large young male population. And we're seeing violence perpetrated by young men in southern Sudan, and we're coming up with country-specific or region-specific approaches on -- in trying to deal with those issues. We in AID also have recognized that this is a big issue and not just in Africa, but also in Asia, and we're coming up with an agency strategy and approach to addressing the issues related to young men -- unemployed young men, idle young men. SEN. ISAKSON: Well, my observation is -- and I have not been to any of the countries, well, I have been to Algeria and Tunisia, and I haven't been to any of the ones directly involved here within my travels in South and Central Africa, and in the Sudan and Ethiopia. It seems like the single largest vulnerability we have is to get the energies and direction of these young men out of nefarious activity and into some type of productive economic activity. Women, that has been done in many cases in terms of the village savings and loans, and things that have been started, but just that I appreciate your answer on that because I think it is a critically important thing to do. Ms. Huddleston, you mentioned Africa and some visibility or support in the counterterrorism partnership. Is some of that coming out of our deployments in Djibouti? MS. HUDDLESTON: Thank you, Senator Isakson. The -- most of the support that we do under the operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Sahara is from what we call SOCAF, our Special Forces of the Africa Command. And so although Djibouti supports, it's mainly out of Stuttgart and component commands from the special forces. And I wonder if I could just go back one moment to the chairman's question regarding our accountability of our training of forces in the region? SEN. ISAKSON: Please. MS. HUDDLESTON: Senator Feingold, I'd just like to point out that I think we've been particularly good on this one. In Mali of course, they have remained democratic, and the forces that we provided JCEPs to as well train and equip have been the forces that are focused on the AQIM. In other words, the region to Timbuktu and the Gall (ph) region where those -- where the AQIM is active. In the case of Chad, we actually redirected our train and equip because we were dissatisfied with the chain of command. That has now been resolved. In the case of Niger, of course we have suspended our assistance, and in the case of Mauritania we suspended our assistance and now we'll resume. But again that training and that assistance will be directed at military capacity that is directed at counterterrorism activities. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you. MS. HUDDLESTON: So just to clarify that. SEN. FEINGOLD: (Off mike) -- your time. Take additional time. I'm going to continue till the vote starts and we'll leave the record open for this panel so we can ask additional questions if we like. Now, let me go to Assistant Secretary Carson. As you know, the GAO study released in July 2008 found that the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership suffered from the lack of comprehensive integrated strategy. Given that the Africa Bureau is the program lead, I'd like to ask you now, is there now a comprehensive integrated strategy that has been agreed to by the interagency? MR. CARSON: We are still working off of the previous documents with respect to strategy, but the strategy that we're using, Mr. Chairman, focuses on several elements. One is to deter violent extremism and to put programs in place that will help prevent violent extremism from taking root in various countries. The second part of the strategy is to build security capacity within the various African militaries in the region, and the third is to strengthen the coalition and the regional cooperation among states. That remains a core part of our activity, deterring extremism, building military capacity, security capacity and strengthening regional focus. We together here in Washington work extraordinarily closely together, as Dan Benjamin has pointed out in his testimony. We are in frequent contact coordinating our efforts in the field, and our strategic efforts back here in Washington. SEN. FEINGOLD: A little more specifically, what mechanisms exist for the interagency to review and assess the appropriateness and progress of specific activities in light of this strategy? MR. CARSON: Well, I think that the -- that we do in fact get together under the guidance of the NSC. And we also meet regularly within the State Department under various mechanisms that have been outlined for myself, and for Ambassador Huddleston, and for Special Coordinator Dan Benjamin to get together to review where we are, review the progress that we're making in the field and reviewing what we need to do to modify and adjust our core elements in the strategy. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, sir. Deputy Assistant Secretary Huddleston, you have a unique vantage point given your experience as previous U.S. ambassador to Mali and we were there together, as you, I'm sure, remember. As you know, the Malian military has engaged this year in several military confrontations with AQIM. Have these been successful engagements, and more broadly what are greatest needs of the Malian military and other militaries in the Sahel as they seek to combat AQIM and carryout effective counterterrorism? MS. HUDDLESTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I remember your visit very well. In fact, you said it was one of the better USAID project, if not the best -- SEN. FEINGOLD: It was -- MS. HUDDLESTON: -- that you were there to see. (Laughter.) Thank you. Mali has been a good partner, but Mali lacks capacity, and so it is sometimes also hesitant in the way in which it carries out its operations. Right now, in order to address that issue, we are providing $3.5 million through the Department of State to help them improve their logistics capacity, as well as their training. And this is continuing to be an enormous problem for Mali, because the area up there, as you know so well, Senator, above the Niger river is so vast. I think that area itself is about the size of Texas. And there have been two Tuareg rebellions in that area, and as a result, in many ways Mali has lost the capacity to govern successfully in that area. And so long-term success depends upon its ability both to reestablish its security presence, something that we are trying to help them do along with the State Department, as well as to have the support of the people, both the Tuaregs and the Berabish in the area. I think you saw this one operation in which a number of Malian military were killed. I think that showed in itself that they were -- there was a resolve on the Malian part to try to face this threat. But it also showed that sometimes they're not -- they don't have the capacity to do it as well as they should. And that's why this Algerian-Malian initiative which they held in Tamanrasset with the chiefs of staff of the various defense organizations of Niger, Mauritania, Mali and Algeria is so important, because the only really effective way to address this challenge is for the region to address it together. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you. Mr. Gast, when USAID carries out assessments to identify communities most at risk to violent extremist organizations or ideology, what are the characteristics that you're really looking for, and how specifically has USAID adapted its development programs to try to target these kinds of risk factors? MR. GAST: Yes, thank you, Senator Feingold. Recently, within the last year, we had a final version of our drivers of extremism paper, as well as our programming options, which we peer-tested. And from that we have used -- we have come up with an analytical framework that we're using in the countries. And we've used this analytical framework in all four of the primary participating countries, and we're looking at areas that are most vulnerable to violent extremism. And so that would be for instance areas where there's marginalization. It could be ethnic conflict, it could be high unemployment, and so it depends on the region. And -- for example, in Mauritania we have determined -- and by the way, these assessments are done on an interagency basis, so it's not just AID, State Department officers, DOD officers participate in the assessments as well. In Mauritania, we have determined that the youth who've come into the city are most vulnerable to messages of violent extremism. So the program is urban-targeted, and Mali for instance, it is in the north, and as well as Niger, also in the north. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you. Senator Isakson. SEN. ISAKSON: Just one question and Secretary Carson, I'll ask you, but it may -- somebody else might answer it. The eastern border of Chad borders western Sudan, which is where Darfur is, and in the displacement and the tremendous refugee problem that we have there, a lot of those people who were in Darfur were displaced by Chadian rebels. Is there any evidence that you know of that may have been AQIM supported in whole or in part? MR. CARSON: Senator, no, we have no indication that AQIM has been operating in that part of Africa along the Chad -- the border with Sudan, no indication whatsoever. SEN. ISAKSON: Thank you. SEN. FEINGOLD: One more quick question for Deputy Assistant Secretary Huddleston. Assistant Secretary Carson's testimony states, I quote, "Chiefs of mission must concur with all proposed activities," unquote related to TSCTP. Can you assure the committee of the Department of Defense's unqualified support for this principle? MS. HUDDLESTON: Yes, Senator, I can and I will cite the fact that General Ward has been very conscientious in always going to the ambassadors and making sure that the ambassadors in each of the countries are comfortable with and support whatever activity we are engaged in. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you. I thank all the panelists. We will recess at this point, because the votes are about to start. I'm hoping we'll be able to come back and begin with the second panel in roughly 45 minutes. I thank you. (Sounds gavel.) (Recess.) SEN. FEINGOLD: I call the hearing back to order. Thank you for your patience and it's almost exactly 45 minutes, so I thank the second panel for waiting. And at this point, I would like to ask Ms. Lianne Kennedy-Boudali to give her testimony and of course we'd be more than happy to put your full statement in the record. Ms. Kennedy-Boudali: Thank you, Chairman Feingold. It's my honor to be here. I have been asked to provide an assessment of threats to the Sahel from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM and other extremist groups. Insecurity in the Sahel is not a new condition, and although recent terrorist incidents have drawn greater attention to the region, terrorism is not the primary problem. Weak states, ineffective governance, civil conflict, smuggling of goods and people, drug and weapons trafficking, and criminality all contribute to insecurity in the region. The problems of poor education, a lack of economic opportunity and poor social mobility create an environment in which AQIM's recruitments messages find an audience. AQIM has the capacity to threaten U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in the region. However, the group is not in a position to destabilize any of the states in the Sahel, and it is not likely to form the nucleus of a Taliban-like insurgency. I would like to briefly discuss AQIM's current activities in the Sahel. In September 2006, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, the GSPC, declared it's allegiance to Osama bin Laden and became an al- Qaeda affiliate in January 2007 by changing its name to al-Qaeda Organization in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb. AQIM's goal to overthrow the Algerian state has not changed since the merger, although the group has increased its rhetorical attacks on the West and it has greatly expanded its outreach to jihadists in the region. AQIM has incorporated increasingly sophisticated IED technology into its attacks against Algerian security services, and it began conducting suicide attacks in 2007. Suicide attacks make up a small percentage of AQIM's attacks however, and the deadliness of these attacks has been decreasing over time. AQIM's association with al-Qaeda may have provided new sources of external donations, but the group still appears to get most of its funds from its own criminal activities including kidnapping and smuggling in Algeria and the Sahel, and from petty crime in Europe. AQIM has capitalized on insecurity in the Sahel to maintain safe havens in Mali and Mauritania, but its ability to operate beyond Algeria depends on maintaining cooperative relationships with the Tuareg and Berabish tribes in the region. AQIM's alliance with al-Qaeda allowed it to attract fighters from the Sahel, but despite this, the group does not appear to be gaining strength. The recent expansion of activity into Mauritania and Mali is taking place in part because AQIM has been increasingly constrained in Algeria, and because it has been unable to organize operational cells in Morocco, Libya, or Tunisia. AQIM's strict interpretation of Islam holds little appeal in the Sahel, and its recent actions in Mali, the execution of a British hostage in May, and the assassination of the Malian military officer in June, may have put its safe haven in jeopardy. The group also suffers from internal personality conflicts, and has lost many of its experienced fighters to the Algerian government's amnesty program and its aggressive counterterrorist actions. Despite views to the contrary, AQIM does not appear to have received a large influx of foreign fighters from Iraq, which is one of the few variables that could have significantly increased the group's capability for violence. AQIM is likely to continue kidnapping foreigners, and it may increasingly seek to target western interests in the region. As such the group poses an ongoing threat to U.S. citizens and interests in the region. This threat is best countered by a multi-pronged U.S. policy response that includes programs designed to support development, governance and security. States in the region need assistance in creating the conditions for social development, including better education, more economic opportunity, more transparency in governance, stronger rule of law and support for countering both criminal and terrorist violence. Additionally, long-standing civil conflicts, notably the ongoing problems between the states in the region and the Tuareg minorities, require resolution before progress can be made in improving security and development. The best option for reducing terrorism and improving security in the Sahel is to focus our efforts on improving human security in all forms, physical, economic, environmental and so on by supporting the Sahel state's ability to deal with these problems themselves. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you very much, Ms. Kennedy-Boudali. Dr. Gutelius. MR. GUTELIUS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to testify on a set of issues that I believe is key to the stability of both the Sahel and greater Saharan region. Today we face an uncertain, complex, ever-shifting situation across the nations that straddle the Sahara and Sahel. While certain issues seem new, natural resource exploitation, the emergence of AQIM, and recent revolts in both Niger and Mali, these are in many ways simply newer threads of much older weave. From a local perspective, neither GSPC nor AQIM are considered major threats, nor is Salafism per se. To those living on the southern edge of the Sahara, the most critical issues are perhaps not surprising, one environmental degradation; two, differential access to resources and extreme poverty; three, the sharp growth of smuggling and four, continued political disenfranchisement of key northern populations. None of these issues, with one exception, is new. The Sahel has seen serious desiccation punctuated by periodic droughts over the last 40 years, which has had a devastating local impact. Northerners, Berabish and Tamashek in particular, are largely marginalized by southern majorities that control national politics, armed forces, foreign direct investment and the foreign aid that flows into Mali and Niger. Informal trade remains a staple of economic activity through the desert because there are few others ways for people to sustain themselves. One major exception to these longer-term dynamics is the changing nature and scale of smuggling. Over the last four to five years especially, the volume of the cross-desert trade has grown sharply, and cocaine has overtaken other commodities, people, cigarettes, fuel. This new trade may be creating the conditions for serious political disintegration. This to me is the largest current threat to regional stability, rather than either AQIM specifically or reformist Islam more generally. My written testimony discusses AQIM's shifting fortunes, the tenuous links between ideology and violence in the Sahel, the rise of the Trans-Saharan drug trade and local perceptions of the TSCTP response. Let me just summarize in saying that the threat of instability in the Sahel is very real, but the source of that threat is more directly linked to economic desperation, criminality, differential access to political and economic control rather than al-Qaeda or Salafist ideology. Terrorists do indeed pose a real threat, but we tend to give these groups more credit than they deserve. U.S. counterterrorism efforts should provide a well integrated programmatic focus on those larger regional challenges and hold U.S. agencies and their partners accountable for outcomes. The stakes are high and growing not just for African governments, but for U.S. and Europe as well. I look forward to your questions. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you very much. And I certainly agree with you that the problem here has to do with types of things you're talking about. It's an environment in which al-Qaeda-type organizations can thrive. But that is not necessarily the leading issue. It's something we have to address as a country with regard to our national security interests. But having been to most of these countries I certainly would share that assessment. Let me start with Ms. Kennedy-Boudali. You wrote in your testimony that one of the reasons AQIM has turned its focus to the Sahel is that it has not been able to organize operational cells in Morocco or Libya or Tunisia. In your view why is that? What challenges does AQIM face in these three countries? MS. KENNEDY-BOUDALI: Thank you, Senator. I think that's a really important question because those three countries are the most logical partners for AQIM to seek support or recruits. But they've been unable to do so, in part, because of those -- those states are that much more capable than the Sahel states in terms of their ability to monitor extremist recruitment in their region in order to keep track of who's entering and exiting the country and in their ability to, I think, control their populations, frankly. Those three states have very strong security services, as I mentioned. And in Morocco, in particular, after the bombings in Casablanca in 2003, there was a wave of arrests, as I'm sure you are aware, of extremists not only those with jihadist tendencies but anyone who opposed the government, frankly. And as a result, whatever support there might have been was fragmented and splintered. In the case of Libya there was a jihadist movement that was quite active there in the 1990s, but it is severely weakened and additionally a number of the jihadists that might have supported AQIM in Morocco, Libya and Tunisia have probably switched their interests to conflicts elsewhere such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the pool of recruits that might have supported jihad in the region may now be more interested in looking towards Iraq or Afghanistan as a theater for their activities. SEN. FEINGOLD: You're right there. Well, AQIM has succeeded in recruiting some fighters from the Sahel. Its overall success in attracting new recruits is actually marginal. Now what -- to what do you attribute that lack of success and what are the constraints to AQIM expanding its region's support in the Sahel? And you alluded to some of these already but -- MS. KENNEDY-BOUDALI: Within Algeria, Senator, I think it's important to remember the context of that country's experience with an extremely bloody civil war in the 1990s that killed -- estimates range up to hundreds of thousands of people. So I think there is a sense in Algeria itself that the people are quite simply tired of hearing about these groups. And they are not supporting them because they have seen no success for them. Their -- they make the lives of the people more difficult through extortion, through road blocks, through, you know, violence and criminality. They are not proposing any positive political solution. They are seeking to overthrow the state, but I don't think people in the region see that that would be any kind of improvement in their lives. In the Sahel region, and this has been mentioned by the previous panel as well, I think AQIM's idea of what Islam means and what a good Muslim should do is quite simply an anathema to the people in the region. They don't support the idea of a Shari'a-based governance. They are not interested in overthrowing the states in the region. It's just not a very competitive message. SEN. FEINGOLD: And you've mentioned the Tuareg, most of whom do not share al-Qaeda's ideological goals either. What do you see as the key to gaining the support of Tuareg communities in the fight against AQIM? MS. KENNEDY-BOUDALI: I think this is a -- probably the most important question regarding ways to disaggregate the nature of the threat in the Sahel. Different populations of Tuareg have different interests. And we don't want to bunch them together. Certainly there are -- there is an element of some of the Tuareg populations that are involved in the criminality and they are probably best disaggregated from AQIM by highlighting the danger to themselves that AQIM has posed because the increase in their activity in the Sahel has drawn the attention of not only American but also European and local security services. AQIM is making people's lives harder there. For the majority of the Tuareg which are law-abiding citizens who have political concerns about representatives of government or the level of state interference in their affairs, I think, governments in the region need support in finding solutions to reduce those grievances whether that's a matter of increased educational opportunities, the education in local languages or increased access to economic opportunities by presenting a better alternative. I think whatever level of Tuareg support or tolerance or tacit support may be going on could be reduced through an engagement. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you very much. Dr. Gutelius, I'm very interested in your observation that the trade in cocaine across the Sahel is rapidly increasing. And this subcommittee held a hearing earlier this year to explore the growing problem of drug traffic in West Africa. In your assessment what is driving the increasing trade in cocaine and who are the key players in the trade? MR. GUTELIUS: Yeah. It's an excellent question, Senator, thank you. This is really a change over the last five years. You know, being based in the north, living in Timbuktu for some time in the late '90s, I've watched this, but the nature of smuggling really changed in pretty substantial ways. It seems clear that South American cartels are directly involved from the supply end, but it goes beyond that. These cartels, as you've heard testimony on before, have a quite sophisticated array of both ways of getting the goods to the eventual markets, but also things like financing mechanisms. They've done this before, they're very experienced at it and now it seems that they are following a similar pattern in West Africa which, I think, is, you know, akin to the cancer we see throughout central and South America. The November 5 crash outside of Gall, I don't know if you're aware, but it was -- I think, it was a DC-10, a 10-ton capacity flying from Venezuela crashed on take-off. It was able to deliver its goods unfortunately and forces are still trying to recover those. But it highlights this problem of these desert-side (entrepreneurs ?), these desert-side centers for the trade across the Sahara. The other part of the problem, obviously, is demand and largely demand in Europe now which is driving that trade and sucking it across the desert. The profits involved, I'm afraid, are driving different kinds of social and political relationships in the desert that I haven't seen before, alliances that I wouldn't have expected necessarily. SEN. FEINGOLD: Give an example of an alliance. MR. GUTELIUS: Well, so in the older, say, six to eight to ten years ago with the cigarette trade which was the kind of king trade across the Sahara in terms of profitability that a $1-billion industry five years ago was really run by a set of Berabish and Tuareg families, Tamashek families that were fairly well-known. They'd been in the trade for a while and you know had established networks that not only got the goods from west African ports, but also safely across the desert to their partners in North Africa. Those same families are now competing with new kinds of networks that are much more directly related to the cocaine trade, much more specialized in some ways. And that poses a problem for those older families and the power structures that they represent. So young guns -- Lianne and I were actually talking about it before the session. Young guns are actually able to challenge in some ways these more established networks. And a big problem there is that the middlemen are being paid now just like we see in other areas where drug smuggling is a problem, being paid in drugs. So you have as the sheer number of people involved in the trade grows you have this possibility that the cancer that has affected other parts of the world will infect these societies as well. That's not the case yet, but I fear given the current trajectory and just the -- it seems a focus of the South American cartels and the ease with which they can still move those goods across the desert that's where we're headed. SEN. FEINGOLD: Okay. Doctor you were critical in your testimony the tendency by U.S. analysts to sometimes conflate the spread of concerted Islam particularly Wahhabism and violent extremism. What are the implications of this tendency for counterterrorism efforts and how could you recommend that we could, U.S. could shift its programming to avoid this kind of conflation? MR. GUTELIUS: I think there are several areas that we can focus on and first and foremost is continuing to improve the execution of the TSCTP. I think it's an innovative program in many ways, it can be an example for some more types of programs in the future. At this point I still have to agree with the 2008 GAO assessment and from what I see on the ground there is still a lot of fragmentation in terms of again, carrying out the program elements. I think from a Washington, D.C. perspective, I think, they are making a lot of progress in terms of coordination from a field perspective, from an on-the-ground perspective it doesn't look that way. So I think a lot can be done there to harmonize what's happening on the ground. I think a big need is simply to listen a lot more for what some of these local populations, especially, the targeted populations Berabish and Tamashek want and need in their communities. And I think the previous speaker from the previous panel, Ambassador Gast, I believe, mentioned listening clubs in Niger and that's a great example. That's a great example of creating support on the ground and using that information to drive priorities in terms of whether its USAID or AFRICOM types of activities. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Doctor. Finally, before turning to Senator Isakson I agree with you that when you'd increase our diplomatic presence in order to better gather information and build long-term local relationships. and I've been saying this about many neglected regions of Africa for many, many years. If you were to advice the U.S. in expanding our presence in the Sahel where would you begin? In your view where could opening a new U.S. office tomorrow make the biggest difference? MR. GUTELIUS: Yeah. I think Timbuktu for a few different reasons. It's geographically central and allows us a kind of reach not only in terms of just purely geography, but also culturally that would afford us much more reach into the communities that we're interested in working with. And that's not simply the Tuaregs who, you know, many of which are based up in Kadal (ph) region, but also it is traditionally a kind of, sort of, cross-section of the desert population down there. So that's one area, I think, where having a permanent mission or some small presence especially, with the State Department or USAID kind of leading that outward-looking that outward-facing representation of the U.S. would make a huge difference in terms of credibility for local population. SEN. FEINGOLD: Now, I strongly agree that. I had one of the most memorable moments of my career was in Timbuktu meeting having lunch ceremony with the local Tuareg and other people and we were discussing these kinds of issues, but also the broader range of issues in the sense of it being a, not only a critical place now but a traditional crossroads as well as the classic center of Islamic learning centuries ago. It really does make sense as a location. Senator Isakson. SEN. ISAKSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize I was late to both of you. I really have two questions. The first, just to both of you. I think you both were here for the previous panel. Is that not correct? And as I -- if I state this wrong please correct me, but our policy with regard to the partnership in this aid is basically to be a partner, but sort of a step back from the forefront. Do you agree -- and this I'd like for both of you to answer this, do you agree with the posture the United States is taking with regard to the counterterrorism partnership? MR. GUTELIUS: I'll begin. Thank you, Senator. In a sense, yes, especially, when we're considering counter -- specifically, counterterrorist activities and specifically with our AFRICOM initiatives. I think that's the right thing to do. I think that can be balanced if you look at the program as a whole I think that can be balanced and in fact, as I think we need to actually put a United States or American face on especially, some of the development activities that are happening even ones that AFRICOM carries out. I think that's an important message that we're interested in more than simply bolstering militaries. We're interested in actually improving societies in a very general sense. And so in a sense I understand the approach to kind of being a silent partner at the same time that generates some cost, I think, for us. And one of the best ways this country has showing its support for development worldwide is USAID. And I would love to see them more, kind of, publicly on the ground creating these programs and again, putting an American face on the effort. SEN. ISAKSON: So not a -- much of a public face in counterterrorism, but a big public face in terms of economic development, health care things of that nature. Is that what you -- MR. GUTELIUS: That's correct. SEN. ISAKSON: Yes, Madame. MS. KENNEDY-BOUDALI: I would agree with Doctor -- with what Dr. Gutelius has said and I would add that I think the approaches are appropriate to keep the counterterrorism and antiterrorism mission somewhat in the background because it is very prone to misinterpretation in the region. Particularly with the -- I don't want to say the tendency, particularly with the fact that there are few trusted media outlets in the region. And so there's a great deal of rumors and misinformation and misinterpretation as to the U.S. military presence in the region. I think one of the things that could be done better is explaining to local governments and local media outlets what exactly the U.S. is doing in the region to reduce this tendency for misinterpretation. As far as putting a U.S. face on development activities, I think, that's a great idea and it does build anti -- and it does support -- it could contribute to a reduction of anti-American sentiment particularly, programs not only like USAID, but also the Peace Corps which I -- Senator, I believe you're also a member of the committee that governs Peace Corps funding and that's a Dollar For Dollar, a great program to put in American face on very positive, very positive work that's done in the region. SEN. ISAKSON: There's something we lovingly refer to as "Soft Power" around here, but it is very important and that I have not traveled to any of these countries, but many all around it where we have significant USAID, CARE, Save The Children, Basic Education Coalition lot of people that are winning a lot of friends and really changing the lives of the African people. I have one other question and I was reading the conclusion, Ms. Boudali of your report where you talk about "there is no silver bullet for solving the problem." I certainly agree with that, but I have a great concern because when you look at the map and you're into Chad, if you go through further to the east next is to Sudan, next is Ethiopia and next is Somalia. And if the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which comes to a head, I think, in February of 2011 falls apart and we get into civil war in Sudan again it is close to tying a heavily terrorist base Somalia closer and closer to some of these other organizations. Is that something that you worry about or is the expanse of territory between the Sudan and Ethiopia so great you wouldn't worry about it? MS. KENNEDY-BOUDALI: That's a good question, Senator. I would worry about it, but I think we want to be careful to keep the caveats in mind as you mentioned there is a distance that separates those two conflicts currently, not only a geographic distance, but there's also a cultural distance that we should keep in mind. One of the things that we know now from the declassified documents is that al-Qaeda has experienced some difficulty operating in Africa and they are considered foreigners when they go there. So despite the fact that they do seem to be increasingly evolved -- involved in the conflict in Somalia there are reasons to think that there are local interests that are not particularly supportive of al- Qaeda necessarily. And although there has -- there looks like there is some evidence of trafficking of weapons and people and things back and forth from the Horn of Africa to the Sahel and to North Africa those relationships have existed throughout time. and I think when we look at that -- those two conflicts we need to keep in mind that there are some differences between them. I think it is important to watch what's going on and to particularly keep in mind what assistance we might give to states in the region that would particularly help them monitor borders and to keep track of flows of goods and people because that could be one of the earliest indicators that there is a greater connection between the two theaters. SEN. ISAKSON: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Senator Isakson, for your very active participation in this helpful hearing. I want to thank the witnesses very much for your expertise and for your sharing it with us and that concludes the hearing. (Sounds gavel.) END.