Terrorist Foothold in N. Africa 'Extremely Low Possibility,' Rumsfeld Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
IFRANE, Morocco, Feb. 13, 2006 Thanks to the way Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco manage their internal affairs, it's "an extremely low possibility" that al Qaeda or a similar terror organization can establish a foothold in those North African nations, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
Rumsfeld spoke with reporters on the final stop of a three-day relationship-building swing through the three nations in North Africa in which he sought to strengthen their military relationships with the United States while encouraging their leaders to continue raising their voices in favor of moderation and against extremism and terrorism in the Muslim world.
In many parts of the world, Rumsfeld said, governments have not taken the kinds of steps the leaders of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco have. They recognize the importance not only of security activity, but also of political progress, economic progress, and bringing all of the dimensions of society together in a way that creates an environment inhospitable to terrorists, he said.
"They've taken a lot of steps to show that they can live in peace and successfully deal with the problem of extremism," he said.
In addition to their domestic efforts, the secretary said, the three nations also work together. "There is cooperation among the countries of North Africa, and it is a constructive one," Rumsfeld said today after meeting with King Mohammed VI at the Moroccan leader's mountain retreat here.
"In fact, each of the three countries that we visited - Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco - have all commented on the fact that they have very positive relationships," he noted, "and share concerns about some of the problems in this part of the world, and recognize it's to all of their advantages to work very closely together."
Rumsfeld noted that all three countries participate in NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, along with Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Mauritania. They also participate in NATO's program of patrolling the Mediterranean Sea in an operation called Active Endeavor, and they cooperate in Trans-Sahara counterterrorism activities, he said.