The centre will be run by a coalition of high-ranking officers from Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria who would share information on the activities of terrorist groups in the region, their movements and the identities of members, the Algerian daily Al Watan said.The newspaper said the suggestion to include Morocco in the group had been rejected because it was not regarded as part of the region.
The centre will have a rotating leadership, like the regional military post in Tamanrasset, Algeria, where the meeting is taking place and which was set up in April this year to coordinate activities with the armies of Mauritania, Mali and Niger. The “Tamanrasset Plan” calls for officials from Algeria and the three Sahel countries to co-ordinate intelligence-gathering in a campaign against terrorism, organised crime, arms smuggling and kidnapping. The plan also calls for military patrols in shared border areas to monitor and control the movement of terrorist groups.
At the meeting it was decided recruit smugglers to help them track down the militants’ desert camps.
Sahel analyst Jeremy Keenan told RFI that the meeting is unlikely to provide “anything of use” in terms of intelligence because agencies from all four countries are already “pretty clued-up”.
“They also know that AQIM has been, and still is, fairly well infiltrated by Algeria. They also know that basically Algeria is trying to call all the shots. And there are fundamentally bad relations between Algeria and every single one of her neighbours, except at the moment Tunisia,” says Keenan.
He believes that AQIM has been infiltrated by at at “the highest levels” which has created “huge amount of distrust from all the surrounding countries”.
“The bottom line is extremely simple – if you wanted to clean up this problem you could do it in 24 hours – the location of all these people is known precisely. They’re not far over the border from Algeria. The Algerian armed forces certainly has the ability to completely wipe out the whole lot in no time at all, if it wanted to.”
Former French colony Algeria is fiercely opposed to the al Qaeda threat being used to justify Western military intervention in the Sahara, and is seeking to demonstrate that the region’s governments are dealing with the problem on their own.