Responding to "Security in the Sahel"
Dr. Thomas Bagger, Head of the Policy Planning Staff of Germany's Federal Foreign Office, has provided his feedback on Atlantic Community's Memo 43, "Security in the Sahel." In his response below, he acknowledges the quality of our members' contributions to the debate on this topic, and outlines his views on each of the policy recommendations outlined in the Atlantic Memo. We encourage you to respond by commenting below.
First of all, thank you very much for offering me the opportunity to take part in this online discussion and give you feedback on your policy recommendations!
Seeing the quality of your contributions, I am already looking forward to further exchanges on other issues. In today's networked world debates between different foreign policy players (including civil society at all levels) are becoming an essential element of open policy development. The Federal Foreign Office with its embassies and missions throughout the world serves as a platform to tie together various approaches and instruments of foreign policy in order to achieve the greatest coherence possible.
Concerning our policy towards fragile states the government approved interministerial guidelines in September last year which were drafted between the Federal Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The "Task Force Sahel" we established at governmental level is one instrument to achieve greater coherence – and also the starting point for my feedback on your specific recommendations.
I fully agree with your overall statement that military intervention in Mali was and still is necessary but has to be pursued as one element of a comprehensive approach. Integrated strategies are needed – in terms of a trans-border, regional approach on the one hand, and in terms of combining military, political and development cooperation on the other hand.
While the public discussion is currently mostly absorbed by military issues, the EU, the UN as well as regional organizations such as the AU have consistently emphasized the need for a comprehensive long-term approach, combining security issues with development and political matters. That's why the EU has approved its Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, which focuses on Mauritania, Mali and Niger and concentrates on four key issues: a) development, good governance and conflict resolution; b) coordination on a regional political level; c) security and the rule of law; and d) the fight against and prevention of violent extremism and radicalization.
Allow me to comment on a few of your specific recommendations:
I fully support your idea of providing support and guidance for regional security cooperation in order to ensure efficient "African ownership". AFISMA is supported by many nations, including Germany. As there are well-established regional frameworks, first of all ECOWAS but also the African Union, and as the UN Security Council is preparing for a resolution mandating an African-led UN stabilization force, I do not see a role for NATO as such.
The EUTM Mali mandate includes advising the Malian armed forces and providing training for soldiers. Its initial mandate will expire after 15 months. Of course we will have to discuss the time frame in relation to recent and future developments. Both the EU and the prospective UN mission include a strong human rights component.
In the framework of its Sahel strategy the EU launched its civilian CSDP mission EUCAP Sahel Niger in order to improve Niger's security forces' capacity to fight terrorism and organized crime. The overall aim is to enhance political stability, security and governance in Niger and the Sahel region. The situation throughout the Sahel region is being closely monitored by the mission's liaison officers with a view to identifying further possible CSDP actions, in particular in Mali and Mauritania.
A comprehensive Sahel Border Security Initiative is an interesting idea that would be well worth exploring. It could address the manifold transnational aspects of the current crisis in the region and tie many existing strands and efforts together. Coordination and coherence remain the biggest challenge.
Finally, immediate humanitarian aid, the resumption of development cooperation (with special attention to educational initiatives) and the establishment of a credible, broad-based and focused political process (including dialogues with all sections of the Malian population while ensuring that terrorist groups are excluded) will be crucial for transforming the short-term intervention we have witnessed into longer-term stability for Mali and the entire Sahel region.
Dr. Thomas Bagger, Head of the Policy Planning Staff of Germany's Federal Foreign Office.