Magharebia (Washington DC)

Mauritania to Import Iraq Anti-Terror Techniques

Nouakchott — Faced with surging terror threats from abroad and within, Mauritania is willing to employ the experience of Iraq's tribal forces.

Mauritania seeks to benefit from the experience of Iraq's anti-al-Qaeda militias to effectively combat terrorist groups on its own territory.

The Council of Sahwa forces "is ready to provide assistance to Mauritania or any other country that needs support in hunting down terrorist groups and unveiling their criminal plans", Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha told Aswat al-Iraq last Monday (October 29th).

The Mauritanian government expressed willingness to transfer the expertise of Sahwa forces to fight "terrorist groups, support security forces and protects citizens from the evils of these groups", the Council chief added.

Sahwa fighters are estimated to number between 100,000 and 200,000. They "fought terrorism and managed through great sacrifices to break its strength after heavy fighting that lasted several months, culminating in the achievement of great victories in the military and security fields", according to Abu Risha.

In late September, Mauritanian Defence Minister Ahmed Ould Idey Ould Mohamed Radhi visited Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad. The Iraqi premier stressed that Arab and Muslims countries need to co-operate to eliminate extremism.

The Mauritanian minister expressed concern about "the spread of extremism and terrorist groups in the Maghreb", given the control of the region of Azawad in the north of Mali by terrorist groups.

"Launching co-operation in the fight against terrorism is very important at this stage," analyst Hamadi Ould Dah told Magharebia. "Mauritania can benefit from the experience of the Sahwa while still taking into account the differences between the two communities of Iraq and Mauritania."

He added, "In this framework, it is possible to benefit from the Mauritanian Camel Unit. The latter is a special military unit that was the nucleus of the Mauritanian army in the sixties and is closely linked to the cultural composition of the community. Militarily speaking, it plays the same role as the army."

"These units know the desert and local climatic conditions well," Ould Dah said. "Even their uniforms are associated with the local cultural identity. They rely on camels for their movements in remote areas and have strong ties to the bedouins. This force can use the experience of the Sahwa in the fight against terrorism. They can be used to enhance security on the border with the areas used by terrorists such as camps, especially in northern Mali."

But some security observers say that the Iraqi experience cannot be replicated in Mauritania due to the different tribal structure.

"Some Western countries continue to see tribes in Mauritania as a safety valve against deviations, to be used in the fight against terrorism," said security and defence analyst Abdallah Ould al-Nahah. "Yet, I do not think that whoever seeks to develop the country can revert back and use traditional frameworks that will revive violence and land disputes. Tribes in Mauritania are still stronger than the state, and I do not see any need to allow them to strengthen further."

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