Visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged Washington’s “security assistance” to Algeria in a bid to contain growing al Qaeda-linked militancy in the vast Sahel region in the south of the African country.
Kerry, who arrived in Algeria on Wednesday, met with top officials of the country on Thursday before departing for the neighboring North African country of Morocco.
Kerry was originally scheduled to visit Algeria late last year but arrived just weeks before Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika runs for a controversial re-election despite his serious health condition.
Some in the Algerian opposition described the timing of Kerry’s visit as odd, saying it was an indirect statement of support for Bouteflika’s re-election bid.
Bouteflika is expected to easily win another five-year term after 15 years in power in the vote on April 17.
“We look forward to elections that are transparent and in line with international standards, and the United State will work with the president that the people of Algeria choose,” Kerry told a news conference.
“We really want to work in a cooperative way, and we want to do this so that Algerian security services have the tools and the training needed in order to defeat Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”
This is while Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra insisted that Washington should offer the region more access to its intelligence.
“What the US can do, because nobody else can do it, is for instance, share electronic intelligence with the armed forces and security agencies in the region. This is a qualitative edge that only the US can provide,” he said.
Algeria, a major gas supplier to Europe, is already a key partner in Washington’s campaign against suspected al Qaeda-linked militants who have tried to spread across the Maghreb after the French military tried to drive them out of Mali, with US assistance, last year.
Kerry also said the United States would do more to build stronger commercial and investment ties between the countries.
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