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The United States and Maghreb–Sahel security

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Although the Maghreb has never been a priority, it now represents a region of significant interest for the United States. The importance of the Maghreb, and its Sahel extension, springs first from political and economic/energy interests, and second, from military, strategic and security concerns. The first relates to America's energy needs in the region, as well as to the regionalization that could create a potentially lucrative market for US businesses, especially since competition with China has increased over its recent gains in Africa. The second motivation, linked to the first, stems from Washington's new strategy and security policies initiated since 9/11 which have heightened the need for a new type of management concerning security, Islamism, terrorism, and, for a time, democratization. Unquestionably, the problems of terrorism, illegal migration, and other illegal activities are symptoms which cannot be understood if they are disconnected from their causes. However, rather than promoting economic development and good governance, the United States has focused predominantly on hard security matters and established a security system in the region which has continued under the Obama administration. Furthermore, Washington has not so far distanced itself from the regimes in the region whose authoritarianism, mismanagement of the economy, and violation of civil liberties is precisely what brought about the ills from which the Maghreb–Sahel suffers. Without addressing these issues therefore, there is little chance that the region will witness long-lasting peace, security, and prosperity. Furthermore, the protracted conflict in the Western Sahara, the resolution of which has been impeded by the geopolitical considerations of outside powers, has not only hindered the necessary construction of an integrated Maghreb, but also has the potential of leading to regional conflict.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor of International Relations and International Management, and Director of Research in Geopolitics at EUROMED Management, Marseille School of Management.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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