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US Eyes Security Cooperation with Tunisia

US Eyes Security Cooperation with Tunisia

Sunday, 31 May, 2020 - 06:15
An LNA member points his gun to the image of Turkish President Erdogan hanged on a Turkish military armored vehicle, in Benghazi, Libya January 28, 2020. (Reuters)
Tunis, Washington - Mongi Saidani and Asharq Al-Awsat

The United States said it is considering deploying a Security Force Assistance Brigade in Tunisia for training, as part of its assistance program with the North Africa country, amid concern over Russian activity in Libya.

According to Reuters, Libya’s civil war has drawn in regional and global powers, prompting what the United Nations has called a huge influx of weapons and fighters into the region, in violation of an arms embargo.

“As Russia continues to fan the flames of the Libyan conflict, regional security in North Africa is a heightened concern,” the US Africa Command said in a statement on Friday. “We’re looking at new ways to address mutual security concerns with Tunisia, including the use of our Security Force Assistance Brigade.”

It later said the Brigade refers to a small training unit as part of military assistance and no way implies combat military forces.

US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of US Africa Command’s Intelligence Directorate, told a small group of reporters the flight path of Russian aircraft to Libya originated in Russia and passed through Iran and Syria before reaching the country.

Reuters quoted Hadfield as saying that the aircraft had not been used yet but could add a new capability for Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

“If Russia secures a permanent position in Libya and, worse, deploys long-range missile systems, it will be a game-changer for Europe, NATO, and many Western nations,” he said.

In a statement, Tunisia's defense ministry said the United States was a main partner in the effort to build the Tunisian army's operational capability.

The ministry added that security cooperation between Tunisia and the US was the main point of discussion between Tunisian Defense Minister Imad al-Hazqi and Stephen Townsend, Commander, US Africa Command (USAFRICOM) in a phone conversation on Thursday.

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