By Bakari Gueye
Mauritania is looking to strengthen its military capabilities by acquiring modern equipment and receiving foreign training.
French pilots are training the Mauritanian armed forces “in the use of the Embraer Tucano EMB 312-F, a relatively high-performance Brazilian aircraft”, according to a Spanish newspaper.
“As part of this training, flights between France and Mauritania are being arranged, with refuelling stops either at the Spanish military airfield of Torréjon de Ardoz on the outskirts of Madrid or in Morocco,” Atenea Digital reported on July 9th.
To that end, France last year supplied Mauritania with four Tucano aircrafts.
According to the same source, the drill is a “prelude to the acquisition by the Mauritanian air force of Brazilian Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano aircraft, which are the best-performing model in this category”.
“This is an important step,” noted terrorism expert Mohamed Lemine. “The Mauritanian army currently has only three or four aircraft, and that’s not enough.”
According to Quotidien de Nouakchott editor-in-chief Jedna Deida, “amid the threats to the country’s territorial integrity, the national army is attempting to boost its air strike capacities”.
“The recent attacks carried out in Wagadou (Mali) and Bassiknou (eastern Mauritania) suggest that we will see constant mobilisation of armed forces,” Deida said.
The journalist added that Mauritanian authorities “count on international co-operation, especially from France, to help them protect the country from the surprise deadly attacks of AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb]”.
The counter-terrorism fight is “a strategic option” for Mauritania, Deida added. “The strengthening of the army’s potential with modern equipment and the improvement of material conditions for soldiers are, without doubt, efforts that have been made with the aim of improving the operational capacities of the army, which has long been neglected in recent years,” he said.
According to military expert Ely Ould Maghlah, Mauritania’s geography explains its need for modern aircraft.
“The country is vast and 80% of it is covered by desert,” he said. “To control it, you must have air surveillance, which the Mauritanian army has always lacked. Since 2010, the aircraft that it acquired have demonstrated their effectiveness. They give ground troops a big advantage in terms of information and the ability to take out enemy ground troops. This is why Mauritania is acquiring a fighter squadron, training pilots and technicians.”
According to analyst Mahmoud Abou Maali, the new equipment will help Mauritania to deal more effectively with al-Qaeda.
“The war against AQIM can be likened to guerrilla warfare, and the aircraft that Mauritania will acquire have proven their effectiveness in Columbia,” added Abou Maali, who specialises in armed Islamist groups.
“In addition, recent experience shows that aircraft are decisive,” he said. “However, the new circumstances must be taken into account, because missiles and other powerful weapons from Libya have fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda.”