Algiers – Boualem Goumrassa
Algerian Army Chief of Staff Said Chengriha has called on his Mauritanian counterpart, Major General Mohamed Bamba Meguett, to coordinate efforts in facing regional security challenges and strengthening cooperation on the border of the countries of the Sahel region.
Terrorism, smuggling, and the arms trade have been active in the Sahel countries since the outbreak of the Libyan crisis in 2011.
Chengriha received the Mauritanian Chief of Staff who is in Algeria for the first time on a three-day visit, according to a statement issued by the Algerian Defense Ministry.
Chengriha said that boosting military cooperation is crucial to meet security challenges. He noted that both military establishments should consider means to enable the armies to carry their duties in such a situation fraught with dangers and threats.
It is feasible to make greater use of the available security cooperation mechanisms, especially the Joint Military Staff Committee, which will help in exchanging information and coordinating actions, according to the Commander.
He underlined his country’s desire to boost the bilateral military relations to face the various security challenges that threaten the Maghreb and Sahel regions.
Chengriha indicated that Meguett’s visit is an opportunity to enhance the cooperation between both armies in areas of common interest, and will allow the development of bilateral relations.
The Mauritanian official discussed with Algerian military and security commanders the developments in the Guerguerat crossing, especially clashes between Moroccan forces and Polisario Front soldiers.
They also addressed intelligence collaboration against extremism, human trafficking, as well as goods, drugs and weapons smuggling across the border.
The Joint Military Staff Committee was established in 2009 in Tamanrasset, southern Algeria.
It includes the chiefs of staff of the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Algeria. It was launched to confront terrorism threats from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and its affiliates.
The committee doesn’t pursue terrorist groups in the desert, which the four Saharan governments are unable to monitor.
Its weakness was evident when France took the lead in launching a war on terrorism in northern Mali in early 2013, instead of the armies of the four countries.
Security observers believe that there is no point for the committee to meet, given its inaction.
Security affairs experts agree that the Joint Committee is a doomed project, claiming that the four leaders promoted the initiative while they were not prepared to face the serious security challenges of militias.
When it was first launched, the project was expected to carry out military operations in extremist strongholds. However, that wasn’t the case.
Observers also say that the ongoing war in Mali between the local government and extremists has finally put an end to this project.
A spokesman for the Algerian Foreign Ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat earlier that the Joint Staff Committee was created to exchange information and coordinate security efforts, and the aim was never to launch military operations.
He also denied that the project was terminated after the French military intervention, stressing that it is still effective.