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Spotlight: Egypt proposes joint force to fight terrorism on African continent

by Marwa Yahya

CAIRO, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt is ready to host a special African summit to discuss setting up an African force to fight terrorism on the continent.

The Egyptian president made the remarks during a televised speech on Sunday during the opening ceremony of the 33rd African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa.

During a closed session, African leaders proposed to convene a special African summit to discuss a counter-terrorism African force, al-Sisi said.

“I affirm Egypt is ready to host this special African summit stemming from its responsibility and belief in the importance of this proposed force to achieve peace and security in Africa,” al-Sisi said.

Three main reasons were behind the proposal of the establishment of African anti-terrorism force, according to Hesham Halby, an Egyptian military expert at Nasser Military Academy.

First of all, some African countries still suffer the deteriorations of civil wars and don’t have the military capabilities to uproot terrorism, said Halby.

Secondly, the mobility among the borders between the African countries facilitated the spread of the cross-border terrorism, like what is happening in the Sahel and Sahara countries that would impact Egypt and Sudan, he said.

The third reason is generated by that fact that the African countries are currently witnessing large flows of investment and development momentum that require secured stability, he added.

“Terrorism is one of the basic threats for Africa,” Halby, also a member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, told Xinhua, adding that it is difficult to initiate or continue any developmental projects in the continent without security.

“Establishing an African force to eliminate terrorism will be a point of strength because the solution will be applied by African people, which will make the operations sustainable,” Halby told Xinhua.

He pointed out that Africa will be ready to establish the force when the political willingness is provided, warning that there is no alternative except for foreign intervention.

He added the anti-terrorism force does not have to be very large but should have some special formation that suits to fight the threats of terrorism, noting that Egypt has rich experience in this regard.

“Africa doesn’t enjoy the luxury of waiting or choosing because it has to fight the infiltration of some present terrorist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria to its neighbors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tariq Fahmy, a political professor at Cairo University, said the timing of proposing the establishment of the force is significant as Egypt is fighting the Islamic State on its lands, especially in Sinai Peninsula.

Fahmy suggested that some north and central African countries could share intelligence about terrorists and the proposal could succeed as long as implementation tools are provided.

The idea is very “practical,” said Samir Ragheb, head of the Cairo-based Arab Institution for Strategic and Development Studies, referring to the Sahel-Saharan force supported by Egypt for fighting terrorism in Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger.

He pointed out that Egypt has already started training forces in Sahel and Sahara countries as well as implemented a mechanism for intelligence cooperation and transfer of expertise.

In June 2019, the Egyptian army conducted a military training in Mohamed Naguib military base at the Mediterranean Sea for the Sahel and Sahara countries on means of combating terrorism.

In July 2018, Egypt established its counter-terrorism center in Cairo for the regional community of Sahel-Sharan states.

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