Rumsfeld to Make First US Defense Secretary Visit to Algeria

Al Pessin

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has announced that he will make what officials believe is the first visit to Algeria by a someone in his position, during his current swing through North Africa. The secretary says he wants to thank Algeria, as well as Tunisia and Morocco, for their help in the war on terrorism, an effort the United States is supporting with money and technical assistance, as well as this high-level visit.

Secretary Rumsfeld says he decided to visit Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria because all three countries have provided moderate leadership in the Arab world, and support the global war on terrorism. He indicated that Algeria, in particular, has come a long way in recent years as new leaders have come to see the world differently than their predecessors did.

"Algeria, of course, was very active in the nonaligned group for many years, and then had a long battle with terrorism, and has been a very good partner and friend in the war on terror," he said.

The secretary noted that Algeria is participating later this year in a NATO counterterrorism operation in the Mediterranean.

According to the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African Affairs, Theresa Whelan, that is typical of Algeria's active involvement in efforts to fight terrorism.

"The issue of terrorism really hits home for the Algerians, and I think they are trying to share their lessons learned with their neighbors so that their neighbors can avoid having similar problems in their countries," she said.

In a VOA interview, Whelan noted that Algeria participated in a U.S.-led counterterrorism training exercise in West Africa last year, and that it won the right to host the African Union's Counterterrorism Center of Excellence, which will host its first conference soon.

"Algeria has really taken, I think, a very positive lead role in trying to address this issue and the issue of ungoverned space, both in their own context and also in the regional context," she said.

The United States has been particularly interested in training African armies to get control of those 'ungoverned' spaces, the vast, remote areas where terrorists can establish bases and easily cross international borders.

"We think one of the interesting things we have been doing in the last couple of years is trying to facilitate greater linkage between the North African states and their southern neighbors because there are a lot of issues that cross those borders," said Whelan.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Whelan says Algeria has been among the most active countries in taking advantage of funding and training from the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative. The five-year, $500-million U.S. aid program for African countries is designed to help them build counterterrorist capabilities with better equipment, communications and tactics, and more cooperation with their neighbors.

Another senior U.S. official, who requested anonymity, notes that Algeria has also increased other types of defense cooperation with the United States, establishing just last year a joint military commission that will meet annually. Neighboring Tunisia has had such a relationship with the United States for 20 years.

The official also praised Algeria's leaders for being willing to take a position on terrorism that is not popular in many parts of the Arab world.

But the official says while the United States wants to continue to develop military relations with Algeria, it is also sensitive to the concerns of Tunisia and Morocco about any move that would make their powerful neighbor even more powerful. And the official says the United States wants to see political reform and improvements in the human rights situation in Algeria before it will be willing to expand military relations, particularly military sales, much further. For now, the official says such sales will be limited to equipment for counter-terrorism operations, such as specialized vehicles and night-vision goggles.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs