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NATO in Tunisia

Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, promised Tunisians that the international body is currently working on supporting specialised local security authorities in Tunisia through an intelligence centre established in the country. His statements, which came through a press conference held recently, reflect NATO's growing interest in Tunisia as part of expanding its logistic plans in North Africa and sub-Saharan countries.

NATO has numerous reasons to explain what it is doing, especially since these measures come in a regional context that is fraught with risks and challenges, where the size of organised crime networks along with armed groups that have terrorist orientations has increased.

In addition, these steps are arranged in agreement and cooperation with relevant countries, including Tunisia. Over the past four years, there has been a remarkable development in the format of cooperation between NATO and the successive Tunisian  governments. Since the Ansar Al-Sharia group got classified as a terrorist organisation under the government of Troika, and once Ennahda became convinced of the need to enter into confrontation against Al-Qaeda and Daesh, NATO forces started a series of consultations with government and security officials, with a special emphasis on addressing possible and urgent support needed to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.

NATO aspires to have a military base in Tunisia. Despite the magnitude of the security challenges, there is no party or government that is ready to accept that and defend it publicly. Such an issue is a matter of political taboos that burn those who come close to it or openly defend it. Democracy that does not protect national sovereignty loses its legitimacy.

Political and civil forces are not the only ones strongly rejecting the issue of a military base in Tunisia, Algeria's position is among the most important factors working to prevent it. The security strategy adopted by the Algerian regime throughout its long battle against armed groups has primarily been based on self-reliance and rejection of all forms of direct foreign military involvement in this war. This does not mean that Algerians are not cooperative with regional and international parties in the so-called "War on Terror", but it means that they do not allow these parties to run operations on the ground, or to take part in developing security policies. Algerians are right to do so because Westerners have for a long time been eyeing their huge oil reservoirs and the strategic location of their country. For this, it is not in the interest of Tunisia to enter into a dispute with its neighbour, which is currently considered to be its main security ally on the regional level in the fight against Al-Qaeda and Daesh.

However, the manner in which terrorism is evolving and its complexity forced weak nations, including Tunisia, to accept advanced levels of security cooperation from international intelligence bodies – at the forefront of which is NATO – in order to secure its borders and gain the ability for pre-emptive strikes against these groups that are moving in the dark and planning undergrounds. These groups, whether they're aware of it or not, are responsible for pushing their governments toward global security alliances with international security parties so they can perhaps succeed in this war waged against them.

There is a dangerous political logic some of these violent groups use, where they believe that they should push their governments to fall into the arms of foreign powers. Thus whenever the regimes get involved in this direction, the groups think they will prevail in their absurd battle, arguing that pushing regimes toward dependence on the outside would lose them their legitimacy and speed up their demise. This is a wrong bet though, not only because it is unpatriotic and has devastating consequences for all, but also because it serves only one side: the West.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 12 July 2016. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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