Week in Review - August 25, 2014

Middle East and North Africa
Latin America and the Caribbean
Central Eurasia

Middle East and North Africa

  • The U.S. delivered body armour, shields, and other personal protective gear to Tunisia’s National Police and National Guard to “help give the security forces the tools and tactics they need to provide security for the Tunisian people,” said U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Jacob Walles. The equipment and aid to Tunisia’s security forces comes as Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly considers new provisions to a counterterrorism bill that would, “hold accountable all those tempted to abuse the foundations of our national security and in the framework of respect for human rights,” according to Justice Minister Hafedh Ben Salah.  Meanwhile, Italy finished the transfer of 12 naval vessels to Tunisia. The donated vessels are meant to stem increasing African migration from Tunisian ports to Italy.
  • Bahrain denied access to Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, the latest incident between the Government of Bahrain and the United States. Last month, Bahrain expelled a top level State Department official, which prompted several NGO’s in Washington to coauthor a letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice calling for a reevaluation of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship and suspending arms sales to the Gulf Kingdom. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and the U.S. has requested to deliver about $8.7 million in military and police aid to the Gulf state in 2015.
  • In an unusual move, the U.S. suspended the transfer of Hellfire missiles to Israel amid concern over the high number of Palestinian civilians killed in the Gaza Strip. The Times of Israel reported an unnamed Israeli official assuring the suspension of the missiles “was just bureaucracy” and that the incident had been resolved.


Latin America

  • U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh traveled to Honduras to meet with Honduran Defense Secretary Samuel Reyes, Chief of the Joint Staff Fredy Diaz Zelaya and the new U.S. Ambassador James Nealon. During the meeting the officials discussed the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking as well as recent humanitarian missions conducted. The meeting comes as the United States continues to expand its counternarcotics cooperation and humanitarian efforts with Central American nations.UNITAS Training Exercise
  • The United States Drug Enforcement Agency will cooperate with Guyanese authorities to investigate the discovery of a work camp and a nearly-completed semi-submersible vessel found in a remote area of the country. It is suspected that the vehicle was being constructed for the purpose of transporting shipments of drugs and other illicit goods. The discovery reconfirms that Guyana is an increasingly important transhipment point used by criminals, a suspicion long shared by many in the law enforcement and intelligence communities.
  • Naval forces from around the region took part in the multinational UNITAS-Partnership of the Americas training exercise, which featured the participation of representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and the United States. The exercise is the largest and oldest naval exercise performed under the auspices of U.S. Southern Command. The UNITAS exercise aims to increase interoperability among partner nations’ naval forces, enhance the capacity of crewmembers to execute amphibious operations and to further develop relationships among the forces of partner nations.



  • President Barack Obama announced a plan to reimburse France for $10 million of funding for counterterrorism efforts in Mali, Niger and Chad. Many observers have voiced questions about the motivations for the involvement of France and the United States in that region, including the Washington Post editorial board, which wrote that a recent summit of African leaders held in Washington DC “dealt little with human rights improvements that would sustain Africa’s growth.” Iyad ag-Ghaly, Leader of Ansar Dine
  • Soldiers from the U.S.’s 407th Civil Affairs Battalion Functional Specialty Team lead a training course during the month of August to train their counterparts in Africa on dealing with medical threats and the use of field sanitation equipment and supplies. The aim of the program is to enhance soldiers’ skills with monitoring food, water sources and waste disposal to prevent disease and injury during deployment. Students received a certification upon completion of the training program and were handed responsibility for field sanitation issues in their area.
  • The Malian based terrorist organization Ansar Dine leader resurfaced with a video statement that was published by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).  In the video, Iyad ag Ghaly urges Muslims to fight against the French in Mali and repeatedly calls for unity, saying that his group is ready to join “with [their] brothers on the ground,” and the militant leader finished with a message of support for other extremist organizations throughout the world.  It is possible that Ansar Dine may splinter further over the issue of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), especially considering their close ties to AQIM, an organization whose leader has refused to swear loyalty to IS.  Iyad ag Ghaly’s statement is likely a reaction to a long-term counterterrorism force that the French recently deployed in Mali.


Central Eurasia

  • In a speech given in Yalta last week, Putin stated that he will not block the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a route that the U.S. and NATO have used for military transit into Afghanistan. Cooperation on the NDN has consistently been a success in bilateral relations with Russia, but the transit network’s importance is now fading. As the focus shifts to transferring equipment out of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan will become an important new host for transit, which has sparked worries that criminals will smuggle drugs and other contraband into the military shipments.Northern Distribution Network Map
  • The Head of Anti-Drug Programs of U.S. CENTCOM visited Tajikistan to meet with the head of the country’s Anti-Drug Agency. Topics of discussion included counternarcotics cooperation between the two countries, as well as with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Despite the fact that Tajikistan received over $30.5 million in counternarcotics aid in 2014, the struggle against drug trafficking continues.
  • Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey forged a new military alliance at a trilateral meeting held on August 19th. The group discussed the military and political situation in the region, and released detailed plans to hold joint military exercises. The new initiative raised concerns over Armenia’s reaction, especially in light of rising tensions over their long-standing border dispute with Azerbaijan. The president of Armenia (which has been accused of breaking the Missile Technology Control Regime) recently raised the stakes in the conflict by threatening missile strikes on Azerbaijani cities. However, Georgia will likely serve as a counterbalance in the new alliance, since it maintains good relations with Armenia.