U.S., Tunisia Sign Road Map for Defense Cooperation
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Oct. 1, 2020)
US Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper walks out to brief the press after meeting with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune today in Algiers, Algeria. The two leaders discussed the security situation in North Africa and ways to cooperate in the security sphere. (DoD photo)
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.

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Esper Discusses Expanding Military Cooperation with Algeria
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Oct. 1, 2020)
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper discussed expanding military cooperation between the U.S. and Algeria with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune today in Algiers.

The secretary thanked Tebboune for the longstanding relationship between the two nations and praised the nation for its leadership in promoting regional stability. He also thanked the president — who also serves as defense minister — for his hospitality.

The two leaders discussed the security situation in North Africa and the Sahel, the way forward in Libya and the uncertainties in Mali. They also discussed the threats from violent extremist organizations in the region and beyond.

Esper particularly noted the discussions on how to improve U.S. military cooperation with the armed forces of Algeria.

"There are a number of areas where we plan to increase our cooperation, such as in counterterrorism. We look to improve our exercises and training together," Esper said. "We also discussed other issues involving our militaries, which I am confident will increase our interoperability as well."

Algerian officials said that Lt. Gen. Said Chengriha, the military's chief of defense, also participated in the discussions with Esper.

Before arriving at the presidential office, Esper placed a wreath at the Martyrs Monument. The monument stands as a memorial for the more than 1 million Algerians who lost their lives fighting for independence from France, which they gained in 1962.

"I want to say to the Algerian people, how much we respect their sovereignty. We enjoy their cooperation and admire their history," Esper said.

Esper is the first U.S. defense secretary to visit the nation since Donald Rumsfeld in 2006. With a population of more than 42 million, the country is one of the largest in North Africa, and the nation appears to be willing to play a more assertive role in the region, said a defense official speaking on background.

Esper arrived in Algeria after visiting Malta and Tunisia. It is part of a series of visits through the region in an effort to build new alliances and strengthen old ones.

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