By Houda Trabelsi
United States military aid to Tunisia has reached a new high since the Arab Spring, according to General Carter Ham.
“The military assistance provided by my country to Tunisia doubled compared to previous years,” said Ham – commander of US Africa Command – at a press conference at the US embassy in Tunis on Tuesday (April 24th).
In total, the general said, the US provided $32 million in aid during the last 16 months.
During his visit to Tunisia, General Ham held talks with the Tunisian Chief of Staff General Rachid Ammar.
“Thirty-five Tunisian military personnel are currently pursuing training at US military academies,” the US general said.
He also announced that “about 4,000 Tunisian military personnel from land, sea and air forces have received training at US military academies in past decades.”
He added that terrorist organisations in Africa, such as al-Qaeda, “threaten security and stability on the continent, especially in light of current events in Mali and Guinea-Bissau and the smuggling of large quantities of arms from Libya,” particularly after the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi.
General Ham described the smuggling of arms from Libya as “a real danger threatening the region” and called for “concerted regional and international efforts” to prevent the flow of weapons to “terrorist organisations” in Africa.
General Ham, a former infantry soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division, previously served as commander of US Army Europe before taking command of AFRICOM in 2011. The US Department of Defence established AFRICOM in 2007 to co-ordinate US operations and military relations in 53 countries in Africa.
Beyond military co-operation, the US on March 29th announced its intention to grant $100 million to Tunisia to help the transitioning democracy pay its debts and focus on boosting its economy.