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US News The head of the Pentagon signs a military cooperation agreement in Tunis

01:40  01 october  2020
01:40  01 october  2020 Source:   20minutes.fr

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Tunisia in 2016 denied a Washington Post report that it had allowed the US to operate drones from its territory for missions in Libya against the Islamic State group. This May, the head of Africom said the US would send more troops to the country in light of the deteriorating situation in Libya, triggering an

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Le chef du pentagone Mark Esper (gauche) et son homologue tunisien Ibrahim Bartagi signent un accord de coopération militaire, à Tunis, le 30 septembre 2020 © Sylvie LANTEAUME The head of the Pentagon Mark Esper (left) and his Tunisian counterpart Ibrahim Bartagi sign a military cooperation agreement, in Tunis, September 30, 2020

Le Pentagon chief Mark Esper signed on Wednesday, during his first visit to the African continent, a ten-year military cooperation agreement with Tunisia, welcoming a rapprochement to deal with the deterioration of security in Libya.

The role of the United States with the Tunisian army has developed in recent years, particularly in the areas of training and equipment for the fight against terrorism but also in strengthening border security with the United States. Neighboring Libya.

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"We look forward to deepening this relationship in order to help Tunisia protect its ports and borders and roll back terrorism," Esper said after meeting Tunisian President Kais Saied.

The objective is to face "the violent extremists who represent a threat" but also "to our strategic competitors China and Russia", he added in front of the graves of American soldiers fallen in North Africa.

Tunisia, considered since 2015 by Washington as a "major" ally in the region, has been a discreet but crucial support in the Libyan dossier. This country has been undermined since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 by conflicts exacerbated by the presence of international jihadists and the interference of foreign countries.

The United States, which provided air support to the NATO coalition that took part in bringing down Gaddafi in 2011, has since withdrawn, essentially limiting itself to strikes against jihadist hideouts.

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- Reluctance of the population -

Sign of the growing links between Tunis and Washington, the two countries regularly conduct joint military exercises.

Since the fall of the dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, the United States has also invested a billion dollars in the Tunisian army, according to the American defense.

The agreement signed Wednesday, a roadmap whose content has not been detailed, runs over ten years in order to establish a long relationship to ensure training and after-sales in the event of the sale of sophisticated weaponry, says one in the entourage of Mr. Esper.

The use of Tunisian airspace was not mentioned Wednesday and the deployment of a permanent base is not considered acceptable by Tunisia, said another American source.

Faced with the reluctance of the Tunisian population, the authorities have repeatedly denied the presence of American bases in Tunisia.

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But the presence of an American squadron in charge of operating drones within a Tunisian base in Bizerte had been confirmed during a court martial in 2017 in the United States, which the American specialized press had done. the echo.

"There has been a renewed interest" from the United States for Tunisia and Morocco, two long-standing partners, "because the region has become more strategic over the past ten years" with the rise of jihadist groups in Libya and the Sahel, says Tunisian political scientist Youssef Cherif.

"But Tunisia does not seem to have given its approval (to the United States) to use its airspace and its territory to carry out attacks," he told AFP.

- Direction Algiers then Rabat -

In May, the American command for Africa said it was considering sending additional troops to Tunisia in view of the deterioration of the situation in Libya, triggering an outcry in the country.

Africom then specified that these troops would only be responsible for training and not for combat.

In Tunis, Mr. Esper also met his Tunisian counterpart Ibrahim Bartagi, who stressed "the importance of the support of the United States in the field of border security" in particular thanks to electronic surveillance, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The two men spoke of Tunisia's role in Mali, a country hit by jihadist attacks where Tunis has deployed troops under the UN banner since last year.

Mr. Esper underlined "the importance of an apolitical army", on the eve of his visit to Algiers, the first visit of an American Minister of Defense since 2006. In Algeria, the power supported by the military has faces an unprecedented challenge.

The American minister will end his tour on Friday in Rabat, another "major" ally in the region.

sl-cnp / mdz

After the White House, the American army affected by the Covid .
© Provided by Le Point The commander-in-chief ill with Covid-19, the main military leaders of the country in quarantine: the national security apparatus of the States -Unis , the most powerful in the world, is under pressure by the pandemic.

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