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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08NOUAKCHOTT256
2008-05-29 13:01:00
SECRET//NOFORN
Embassy Nouakchott
Cable title:  

MAURITANIA: GENERAL AZIZ GOES TO WASHINGTON

Tags:   PREL  PINR  PGOV  PTER  MR 
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R 291301Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7287
INFO AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
CIA WASHDC
SECDEF WASHDC
JOINT STAFF WASHDC
CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
						S E C R E T NOUAKCHOTT 000256 

NOFORN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2013
TAGS: PREL PINR PGOV PTER MR
SUBJECT: MAURITANIA: GENERAL AZIZ GOES TO WASHINGTON

Classified By: Ambassador Mark M. Boulware for reasons 1.4 (b and d)

S E C R E T NOUAKCHOTT 000256

NOFORN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2013
TAGS: PREL PINR PGOV PTER MR
SUBJECT: MAURITANIA: GENERAL AZIZ GOES TO WASHINGTON

Classified By: Ambassador Mark M. Boulware for reasons 1.4 (b and d)


1. (C) Summary: The visit of Personal Military Chief of Staff
to the Presidency General Mohamed Abdel Aziz provides the
opportunity for Washington policymakers key to sustaining
Mauritania's democratic transition and helping face the
challenge of terrorism.


2. (S - N/F) The Trip: GRPO will be bringing General Aziz to
Washington during the first week of June for meetings at GRPO
headquarters and at the Pentagon. With administrative
control over all elite Mauritanian military forces and
intelligence services, General Aziz is interested in
discussing the current state and future of our
counter-terrorism security relationship with Mauritania.


3. (C) Who is General Aziz?: General Mohamed Abdel Aziz is
the most important security figure in Mauritania. As has
traditionally been the case in Mauritanian governments, as
Personal Military Chief of Staff to the Presidency, Aziz has
effective control over the most important tools of the
military, security and intelligence services. Some
detractors of the Abdallahi Government will say that Aziz is
the real leader of the country because of his security role.
When pushed, they will concede that there is an effective
division of power between the President (who has full reign
over political, social and economic policy) and Aziz (who has
policy control over security issues). When pushed still
further, detractors will agree that President Abdallahi and
new Prime Minister Waghef are exerting stronger policy
control over security matters following the emergence of a
publically-recognized terrorist threat. The terrorist
attacks of December and February showed for those that did
not already know it that "the king has no clothes" and that
decades of military rule had somehow left a poorly trained
military. The on-going development by the Prime Minister's
Office of a National Counter-terrorism Strategy is asserting
necessary civilian leadership over security issues. While
Aziz remains "the man" on military and intelligence issues,
we would term his role as "Security Czar" -- a term that

reflects a high degree of policy autonomy and delegation of
authority from the President but retains the underlying
chain-of-command to the President.


4. (C) Bio: Mohamed Abdel Aziz was born in 1956 in Akjoujt
-- capital of the Inchiri region. He is a White Moor member
of the Oulad Bouaba warrior tribe that has been the source of
many Mauritanian military leaders including Transitional
Authorities leader Col. Vall. Aziz was a key member of the
military coup against Taya and served as Commander of the
Presidential Battalion during the transition. He is credited
for getting military support behind Abdallahi's candidacy and
was awarded the most important security role for his trouble.
Aziz has been unpopular with many of the older senior
colonels in the military for being too "political" but he has
effectively pushed out all the old guard during the past year
replacing them with leaders he trusts. If the point was
still lost on the rest of the military, President Abdallahi
broke a long-held tradition of an Army without Generals, to
name Aziz as the first Mauritanian general. Aziz is a
frequent Mission contact who takes the terrorist threat very
seriously. On the military side, he has been bucking the
tide by advocating a substantially smaller (around 9000) but
far better trained and equipped military than the past.

--------------
THEMES TO RAISE WITH AZIZ
--------------


5. (C) Democracy Is Our Interest: We have heard some
Mauritanians tied to Col. Vall try to use the terrorist
threat much like the Soviet threat used to be played in the
past -- suggesting that the risk was to great to leave in the
hand of an inexperienced democratic government and that men
with a firm hand might have to step in even at the cost of
democracy. We continue to stress that our counter-terrorism
support cannot and will not be at the cost of our support for
democracy. We warn that any deviation from Mauritania's
promising democratic process will see U.S. support quickly
dry up -- no building of Mauritanian forces, no ACOTA, no
Millennium Challenge Account. Nothing but the humanitarian
assistance and intelligence liaison of the past. We do not
see Aziz as one trying to derail democracy (although he holds
the keys to every unit that could make that happen) but he
needs to report back to military colleagues in Mauritania
that U.S. support is absolutely contingent on democracy.


6. (C) Rule of law essential in counter-terrorism: Aziz
holds the police in low regard with some reason -- they are
poorly trained and motivated. The recent escape and re-arrest
of one of the terrorists involved in the December 24 attack
on French tourists simply reconfirmed Aziz's low assessment
of the police. Indeed, it was only the intervention of
military leaders that put an effective man-hunt in place and
allowed the Mauritanians to roll up a substantial number of
AQIM operatives in April. That said, the Mauritanian courts
are playing their appropriate role in ensuring that suspected
terrorists are arrested, interrogated and detained according
to legal and human rights standards. That means that the
police and judiciary need to be reinforced at the same time
as the military and intelligence and that their primacy for
police powers be respected.


7. (C) Integrated Strategy: The National Counter-Terrorism
Strategy is already being drafted; however, we have yet to
see a well integrated approach that draws all the police,
military and intelligence tools together under effective
civilian leadership. The strategy will not work if it gives
into institutional rivalries of stove-piped lines of
communication, redundant capabilities, and poor information
sharing. As Mauritania's leading security partner, we are
already well along the way towards providing Mauritania with
the military and intelligence tools it needs to combat
terrorism. Over the coming year, we will supplement those
efforts to build better judicial law enforcement capabilities
as well. As Mauritania gets the tools it needs, it needs to
figure out how to use them effectively in combination.

Boulware