Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tunisia: Tunisia’s Borders - Terrorism and Regional Polarisation

Source: International Crisis Group

The growing link between cartels and armed jihadi militants along Tunisia’s borders with Algeria and Libya, combined with heightened ideological polarisation, could form an explosive mix ahead of Tunisia’s legislative and presidential elections.

In its latest briefing, Tunisia’s Borders (II): Terrorism and Regional Polarisation, the International Crisis Group builds on its November 2013 report and analyses the alarming security threats at Tunisia’s borders with Algeria and Libya. It argues that, in order to address the growing link between terrorism and organised crime, Tunisia needs a consensual, balanced and depoliticised approach to facing growing security challenges. This means delinking security challenges from the polarised political environment through new socio-economic and development initiatives that would ensure border communities’ trust in and support for the state.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • Whatever the results of the legislative and presidential elections, the Tunisian government needs to confront its critical security challenges by implementing a consensual, balanced and depoliticised approach to anti-terrorism. This means dealing with the economic, social and ideological dimensions of terrorism.
  • The security situation along the Tunisia-Algeria and Tunisia-Libya borders could become an alarming threat if Tunisia fails to initiate talks with certain contraband cartels, strengthen the state’s presence in the border regions through socio-economic and development policies, and win back the trust of local communities who otherwise could be tempted to join militant jihadi groups and indulge in lucrative transborder trafficking, including in dangerous goods.
  • The government should also increase security cooperation with neighbouring Algeria, and pursue the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency to merge intelligence and counter-terrorism.
“It is crucial for the main political, trade union and civil society forces – both Islamist and non-Islamist – to maintain a consensual approach to public security and for the authorities to adopt a calmer anti-terrorist discourse so as to prevent renewed polarisation” says Michael Béchir Ayari, Senior Tunisia Analyst.
“A deepening security crackdown, combined with reprisals by weakened jihadi groups, could form a vicious circle” says Issandr El Amrani, , North Africa Project Director. “The risk is that a major terrorist attack would deepen polarisation between Islamists and secularists”.