Mauritania

Overview:  The country remained an excellent security and regional counterterrorism (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 past year, the government continued to focus its efforts on preventing 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.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no terrorist incidents reported in Mauritania in 2022.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  The Mauritanian government did not pass or amend any laws regarding terrorism during the year.  The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, in cooperation with the Regional Security Office (RSO) and host-nation partner forces, currently provides numerous training opportunities for more than 200 National Gendarmerie personnel.  Training topics include tactical medicine, facilities protection, active shooter response, managing terrorism investigations, and emergency preparedness.  The National Gendarmerie has benefited from this training program, which reorganizes and equips the Crisis Response Team of the Groupe de Sécurité et d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (or GSIGN).  The RSO, in coordination with the National Security Directorate, was finalizing implementation of the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) program.  Once implemented, this program will promote border security by installing PISCES at all of Mauritania’s land, air, and sea ports of entry to assist the Mauritanian government in identifying, disrupting, and deterring terrorist travel.  The RSO also connected Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials with Mauritanian judges, prosecutors, and investigators to foster a more robust legal system for addressing terrorism.  DHS also provided training for 24 law enforcement officers on detecting counterfeit documents.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Mauritania is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, and its FIU is the Central Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit.  There were no significant changes in 2022.

Countering Violent Extremism:  On May 24, Sid’Ahmed Beylilatou, a member of the National Cell for the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism of the G-5 Sahel Alliance, praised Mauritania’s focus on supporting the work of 70 Mourchidates (religious women guides) from Sahelian countries and Morocco who are promoting anti-radicalization to violence discourse.  The grassroots efforts, supported by the Mauritanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs, have ramped up efforts on training to sensitize populations at all levels (mosques, Quranic schools, and vulnerable neighborhoods) and have been a leading example of anti-radicalization to violence efforts in the Sahel.

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Tamkeen (Arabic for “ Empowerment”) activity is sponsored by the Sahel Regional Office of the USAID Senegal Mission and was launched in May, with the administrative support of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.  The $7 million, five-year program — implemented by U.S. NGO FHI 360 — was designed to promote social cohesion and prevent violent extremism by working with youth-focused civil society organizations across the country.  During its first year of operations, the Tamkeen program established partnerships with local organizations in four regions and laid the framework for its learning platform for youth to foster civic engagement and counter disinformation.

USAID’s Nafoore activity was launched by Mercy Corps in October, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Employment.  Nafoore is a five-year, $17 million program that seeks to counter violent extremism through the prevention of radicalization to violence of young people.  It uses a positive youth development approach that strengthens individual capacities, social networks, and economic opportunities for vulnerable Mauritanian youth in urban and peri-urban communities that have heightened exposure to Violent Extremist Organization messaging and radicalization to violence efforts.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Mauritania is a member of the following international organizations that have CT equities:

  • UN
  • African Union
  • G-5 Sahel
  • Islamic Military Counterterrorism Coalition
  • Organization of Islamic Cooperation
  • NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue

Mauritania continued to work with international partners to combat instability in the Sahel, particularly through its engagement with the G-5 Sahel.  In April the G-5 Sahel Defense College, located in Nouakchott, conducted a training program for 50 participants, including 21 Mauritanian officers, on the principles of international humanitarian law and human rights.  In July the defense college graduated 45 international students, including six students from Saudi Arabia, in its fourth cohort.  According to the G-5 Executive Secretary, this marked the last cohort to include students from Mali after the country’s withdrawal from the G-5 Sahel.  Also in July, the defense college hosted a four-day NATO-sponsored seminar.  Nearly 80 military and civilian officials participated in the forum, which concentrated on security and geopolitical topics.

On May 11 the Mauritanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug, participated in the ministerial-level meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in Marrakesh, Morocco.  The Foreign Minister of Morocco and Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland co-hosted the meeting.

Minister Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug also participated in a high-level conference on human rights, civil society, and the fight against terrorism held in Málaga, Spain, on May 10.

During the Madrid Summit in June, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the organization approved a Defense Capacity Building (DCB) package for Mauritania.  Stoltenberg said that insecurity in the Sahel has a direct impact on NATO Allies.  The DCB package highlights six lines of effort for future cooperation:  special forces development, intelligence, maritime security, career military transition program, stockpile management, and military education.

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