A leader in the army staff said that smuggling, drug trafficking, the complicity of some desert tribes with terrorists and the ease of acquiring weapons are all reasons that helped terrorists spread in the Sahel region.
Maj. Gen. Zrad Sherif, head of the army’s department of enrollment and preparation, said yesterday [Oct. 15] that ''the leading position occupied by Algeria in the Sahel grants it special responsibilities to support the countries of the region in facing their challenges."
The official explained at the opening of a forum on the Sahel-Sahara region that ''the geostrategic changes witnessed by the world in general — and the Sahel region in particular — have come to constitute a real threat to security and stability, an obstacle to development efforts and a stage for foreign intervention in this region.”
The Algerian news agency APS quoted Maj. Gen. Zrad as saying that the Sahel desert ''has become characterized by intense and dangerous terrorist activity for several reasons, including the vastness of the region and the fragility and peculiarity of its population. Add to this that it is a sparsely populated area with little security coverage."
The one-day forum was held in an unknown location in the region, and the press was not invited to cover it. The military official put the forum in the context of "understanding the multi-dimensional crisis plaguing the region.”
He said that the conclusions of this forum ''will update and enrich the information bank in order to be able to properly identify the measures that need to be taken to deal with the deteriorating situation in the Sahel region."
Zrad added: ''The causes of the plagues experienced by this region should be further studied in order to find the appropriate ways to fight them, or at least to minimize their severity."
He talked about ''the need to highlight Algeria’s role, being a pivotal state in the region."
Zrad called on participants in the forum to ''analyze the transformations that can prejudice the region in all areas."
In the same context, Col. Burkani Bashir, director of the Military Institute for Documents, Assessment and Receptibility of the Ministry of National Defense, said that the Sahel "sits on a large area that is difficult to control and plagued by insecurity."
He pointed out that the forum, which was attended by security and military specialists, “intends to provide a detailed and precise scientific explanation of the conditions prevailing in the region."
He called on the countries of the region to ''work within a coherent and integrated framework to address the current phase, and this can only be achieved through concerted efforts."
It should be noted that during public meetings, army officers seldom engage in security issues and the fight against terrorism, with the exception of the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ahmed Fayed Saleh.
The event, held in preparation for the war in the north of Mali, included lectures that addressed the fight against terrorism in the Sahel amid strategic gambles and US-French competition in the region. They also tackled poverty and development issues, these being among the factors behind the spread of terrorism, smuggling and drugs.