Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has signed the United States into two ten-year arrangements for military development and cooperation over the last week, one with Morocco and one with Tunisia. The efforts are designed to strengthen U.S. efforts against terrorism in northern Africa.
Esper also spent time visiting the leadership of Algeria, seeking to create inroads with the military-civilian cooperative leadership there. Algeria is likely to be a critical nation for north African relations, as it is more than three times the size of Tunisia and Morocco combined and separates those two countries.
Tunisia shares a border with Libya, as does Algeria, and any military arrangements with either country should be made with an eye toward developments in that nation.
The arrangements, as described by the Department of Defense, are simply a “road map“, but they come at the end of years of negotiation and contain specifics for mutual intelligence sharing and free passage for U.S. vessels through coastal waters as well as improvements to the military of the African signatories.
There are also concrete expectations in the form of disaster relief and humanitarian aid efforts which will be undertaken by the United States as needed.
The agreements seem to be well received in both nations, as they promise military and intelligence aid without binding local forces to act on the United States’ behalf.
Esper continued his tour of African and Mideast nations with a trip to Qatar and is expected to meet with officials in Kuwait today.
These are likely positive events for the nation, but the timing of them, happening so close to the election and after years of negotiation, is highly suspect. It is reasonable to suspect that we were either asking for concessions which were too high for these nations to accept and have abandoned them, or that we have made extra “deal sweeteners” at the last minute in an effort to get some wins on the board before the November election.