The United States will launch a new program in June to help an interagency effort to prevent terrorists from establishing a foothold in Africa, the Pentagon said on Monday.
The Trans Saharan Counter-terrorism Initiative would officially kick off in June with Exercise Flintlock 2005, said Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs.
US special operations forces would train their counterparts in seven Saharan countries, teaching military tactics critical in enhancing regional security and stability, she said.
The initiative was built on the successful Pan Sahel Initiative, which began in 2003, to prevent terrorists from setting up safe havens in Africa. Under the Pan Sahel Initiative, US forces trained and equipped six light infantry companies in Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Niger in skills needed to help secure the region’s vast border areas.
Despite its successes, Whelan said, the Pan Sahel Initiative was constrained from its inception by limited funding and a limited focus.
The new program would be better funded and have a wider scope, adding Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal and Nigeria to the original four countries included in the Pan Sahel Initiative, she said.
The Defense Department would continue to focus on military operations, expanding its scope from the company to the battalion level, and other US government agencies would be involved in the program, Whelan said. The US Agency for International Development, for example, would address educational initiatives; the State Department, airport security; and the Department of Treasury, efforts to tighten up money-handling controls in the region, she said.