Global Counter-Terrorism Forum focuses on Sahel security
By Nazim Fethi for Magharebia in Algiers – 17/11/11
The risks facing the Sahel are such that the whole world is watching very closely, especially since the outbreak of the Libyan conflict. As a result, countries in the region are hosting global representatives to discuss security.
The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) began in Algiers on Wednesday (November 16th). One hundred fifty experts from all over the world will spend two days discussing the fight against terrorism and organised crime in the Sahel region.
There were five main areas for discussion, including "border security, co-operation between police forces, countering the financing of terrorism, improved legal measures and co-operation, and community-based commitment", according Sabine Nölke, director general of international security at the Canadian foreign ministry, which co-chairs the Sahel working group with Algeria.
Speaking at the opening session, Algerian Maghreb and African Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel called for a "fruitful" co-operation among the States taking part in the efforts of the international community to rid the world of the threats of terrorism and transnational organised crime.
Messahel expressed that the "combined and complementary efforts from the international community are a key prerequisite for success in fighting terrorism".
"We must be aware of the fact that we shall not always agree on every single issue, but those who are here today acknowledge that there are urgent needs and unmet challenges, and that each country here has its own special expertise," said American ambassador-at-large and co-ordinator for counter-terrorism Daniel Benjamin.
"By setting up a forum where the recommendations and conclusions of these initiatives can be presented to the group, which includes key parties in the region and external partners, we feel the working group will help to bring better consistency and maximise the impact of those efforts," added Benjamin.
Kamal Rezzag Bara, an advisor to the Algerian president, said that the whole international community needed greater awareness of terrorism.
"Today we need to set up real programmes aimed at developing the capabilities of the countries involved in the fight against terrorism," Bara told the press on the fringes of the meeting.
Bara added that the Sahel "must be a top-priority region for the whole international community, since we are talking about fighting transnational terrorism".
"We have built up great expertise on the issue of finance for terrorism, and we are working with the Algerian government in this area," said Major-General Robin Searby, an advisor to the British Prime Minister on the fight against terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel.
General Searby added that the number of Libyan weapons that left the country during the revolution has yet to be determined. "There has been a proliferation of arms, but…. the reality is that we don't know how many weapons or ground-to-air missiles are in circulation."
Meanwhile, Manuel Lopez Blanco, co-ordinator of the strategy on the Sahel for the European Union (EU), said that non-Maghreb partners need now more than ever to offer strong support to Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger to help them increase their counterterrorism capabilities.
Lopez did not rule out a link between the Boko Haram group, which is active in Nigeria, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He said they may share the "same agenda", saying there was "probably co-operation in terms of training, refuge and movement of their respective elements".
In light of that combined threat he explained that these countries in particular have counter-terrorism resources that "are insufficient compared with the scale of the threat itself".
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