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Obama administration doubles military aid to Islamist-led Tunisia

Special to WorldTribune.com

CAIRO — The United States has significantly increased military aid
to Tunisia.

Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has provided
Tunisia with $32 million in military aid since January 2011 when President
Zine El Abedin Bin Ali was overthrown.

U.S. Ambassador Gordon Gray and Gen. Carter Ham address reporters in Tunis.

The officials said the assistance included training and equipment for the military and security forces of the North African state.

“Over the past year, the amount of funding has nearly doubled to reach $32 million,” U.S. Africa Command chief Gen. Carter Ham said.

In a roundtable discussion during his visit to Tunis on April 24, Ham
did not detail U.S. military aid to Tunisia, which elected an Islamist
government earlier this year. The general, however, said Washington was training Tunisian officers, with 35 of them now in the United States.

The $32 million was about triple that allocated by Congress for Tunisia in 2012 under the Foreign Military Sales program. Officials said most of the increase was in U.S. security training and equipment to bolster Tunisia’s borders.

“The United States is experiencing economic problems,” Ham said. “So, we
do not know whether it will increase its military aid to Tunisia.”
Ham said Tunisia faces threats from its neighbors, particularly Libya,
which underwent a revolt in 2011. The general cited the flow of drugs,
weapons as well as insurgents linked to Al Qaida.

“The situation on the border is troubling,” Ham said. “The illicit
trafficking — weapons, humans, drugs — has a destabilizing influence. The
regional insecurity that derives from the presence of Al Qaida in this
region — those threats are very real. I believe that the senior leaders in
Tunisia clearly recognize the nature of the threats and are trying to shape
the security forces to deal with the troubles that are threatening Tunisia
in today’s environment.”

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