Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met over the weekend with the leaders of Libya and Tunisia to seek better cooperation on counterterrorism. This is exactly the geography that needs our attention. There is fertile ground for the U.S. to articulate shared interests with the countries of northern Africa.
Yet, while Algeria recently has endured a surge in terrorism-related violence, with more than 100 people killed last month, it will be difficult to gain the cooperation we seek. We need them more than they need us in this effort.
The Post reported how Rice noted that “Our counterterrorism people think that cooperation here is good. But there is always more that you can do to tighten sharing of information, to make sure you have all the right channels to give technical support in terms of the terrorism threat.”
Indeed, we have a lot to give and a lot to gain. But providing the “technical support” and “information sharing” Secretary Rice offers requires Departments other than hers. While this may be a discussion brokered by diplomats, the Secretary of Homeland Security should have a seat at the table.
This is why this blog and its readers have repeatedly outlined options for unifying efforts overseas by the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security. Granted, the kind of assistance these countries seek in return for cooperation with the U.S. may be well beyond that which is necessary for combating terrorist threats, but we have an interest in limiting the vulnerability of populations everywhere to the threats of terrorist violence. If that means training up border officials in Egypt, outfitting maritime security guards in Morrocco, or installing detection equipment along the Mediterranean, this is a job best led – or at least supported – by the Department of Homeland Security.
For more on policy options that can help elevate such cooperation on the international level, see these posts and other resources:
As I understand, DHS did serve a role in these talks with Algeria and Tunisia. Its unclear if it was advance/prep or actual conduct of the meetings. I’ll update this post if I get details about the role DHS served.