01/10/2020 – Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Tunisian Defense Minister Ibrahim Bartagi agreed on a road map for defense cooperation during meetings in the capital city of Tunis.
The road map discussed yesterday charts a 10-year course for cooperation between the two countries.
Tunisia is a major non-NATO ally of the United States and already works with the Defense Department on many shared interests and concerns. The agreement will advance these shared security interests, said a U.S. defense official traveling with the secretary.
The road map recognizes the importance of the U.S.-Tunisian relationship in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Tunisia is a « security exporter » in the region, participating in many exercises and cooperating with other nations in security matters.
Terrorism and threats from violent extremist organizations are always a danger in the region, and Tunisia is intimately involved in looking for solutions to the migrant crisis. Esper said he is impressed by the Tunisians’ efforts to enhance their capabilities against terrorists, but also to promote stability and security on the African continent.
« The road map is a shared understanding of where our shared priorities are, » the defense official said speaking on background. « It talks about shared objectives, shared interests and shared threats. These are areas where we can work together. »
The road map took two years to negotiate, and it is a clear-eyed look at the relationship and suggests ways to close capability gaps. « We both want to improve [Tunisia’s] military capabilities and training to improve [U.S. and Tunisian] interoperability. »
Some of the shared interests include freedom of navigation, intelligence sharing, humanitarian operations and disaster relief, the official said.
The official would not speak specifically on what gaps the nations see in their military capabilities, but spoke of gaps that African nations, in general, experience — airlift, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance shortages and the like.
The 10-year road map is a relatively new program. It allows the nations to begin the planning and funding cycles in such a way as to build incrementally. The official said this may be a blueprint for negotiations with other nations in Africa and elsewhere.
BY JIM GARAMONE, DOD NEWS
US DEPT OF DEFENSE