Overview: Mauritania remained an excellent security and regional CT partner for the United States. Despite continued terrorist violence in neighboring Mali, the country has not suffered a terrorist attack on its soil since 2011. Countering terrorist activity remains the top priority for the Mauritanian government, and Mauritanian military leadership underscores this message when appealing to donor nations for additional equipment and training assistance.
During the year, the government continued to focus its efforts to prevent what it termed extremism, and it took steps to increase its capacity to deter and respond to terrorist attacks, including by working with the Mine Advisory Group and the United States to better manage ammunition stockpiles to prevent them from falling into terrorists’ hands.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents reported in Mauritania in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Mauritanian government did not pass or amend any laws regarding terrorism during 2021. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, in cooperation with the Regional Security Office and host nation partner forces, provided numerous training opportunities for more than 200 national gendarmerie personnel. Training topics included tactical medicine, facilities protection, active shooter response, managing terrorism investigations, and emergency preparedness.
On February 8, the U.S. ambassador and the Mauritanian Minister of Interior and Decentralization signed an MOU to facilitate continued cooperation on border management assistance at all of Mauritania’s land, air, and sea points of entry to identify, disrupt, and deter terrorist travel.
Mauritania’s battalion to the G-5 Sahel Joint Force is deployed near the border with Mali to help with CT and counter smuggling operations. The Mauritanian Ministry of Justice also worked with the UNODC, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, and the German Embassy to host an October 25 workshop to train judges and other judicial officials on how to dismantle the links between organized crime and terrorism.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Mauritania is a member of MENAFATF. In addition to the Central Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit (CANIF), Mauritania has two national committees, the National Committee to Combat Terrorist Financing and the National Committee to Combat Money Laundering, which are tasked with improving internal government coordination on these issues. CANIF also continued to roll out additional security requirements on money transfers to increase transparency on transactions.
Countering Violent Extremism: Mauritania continued its efforts to counter violent extremism, including through several partnerships with the United States. On October 27, the U.S. ambassador launched an $800,000 two-year program with World Vision and the Mauritanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education (MIATE) to work with youth, women, religious community leaders, and civil society actors to promote tolerance and fight against what the government terms “extremism.” During June 16-18, UNICEF and the MIATE implemented a U.S.-funded program to train 40 Mahadra teachers in Nouakchott. The training aimed to facilitate the integration of talibes (children, principally boys, studying the Quran) into the country’s formal education system.
Throughout the year, the MIATE continued to implement and expand its “Simple Mahadras” program. The program aims to increase the MIATE’s oversight of Mahadras in the country, to fight against extremism and ensure children are less vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking in persons. The Mauritanian government also continued to make efforts to reintegrate former terrorists and returning FTFs.
Both the Mauritanian government and civil society used strategic messaging during the year to promote alternative narratives and weaken the appeal of terrorism. For example, the government nominated Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a former Guantanamo detainee, as a brand ambassador for Mauritania during its expo in Dubai. The nomination amplified Slahi’s message about the importance of turning away from extremist ideology.
International and Regional Cooperation: Mauritania is a member of the following international organizations that have CT equities: the United Nations, the African Union, the G-5 Sahel, the Islamic Military Counterterrorism Coalition, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Program.
Mauritania continued to work with international partners to combat instability in the Sahel, particularly through its engagement with the G-5 Sahel. In July, the Nouakchott-based G-5 Sahel Defense College graduated 44 international students. Most of the students came from G-5 Sahel member states, and six came from Saudi Arabia.