This paper examines the intersection between human rights and security assistance in Mauritania. In American security assistance broadly, and within the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership specifically, there has been an over-securitization of “whole of government”counterterrorism policy. While the United States recognizes the need to address the social, economic, and political roots of extremism, it has failed to do so in practice. If the United States continues to support Mauritania with conventional security assistance but does not tackle the root causes of extremism, it will ultimately fail in fighting terrorism in the Sahel. In order to succeed, the U.S. government must give greater authority to the Department of State and USAID, create greater accountability for human rights within the Department of Defense, and improve interagency coordination. In the long term, the U.S. government must change its paradigm regarding the relationship between security and human rights. Afghan paramilitary forces working with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have long been a staple in the US war on terrorism in Afghanistan and the border region with Pakistan. The problems associated with these militias take on new significance given the recent momentum in talks between the US government and the Taliban about the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Whose interests do the militias represent? How can they be integrated into a peace agreement – if at all? Will their use value for the US in future counterterrorist operations outweigh the case for closing them down in the service of human rights and a sustainable peace? The militias are at least nominally controlled by their CIA paymaster, but to what extent will the operations of the CIA be monitored and streamlined with overall US policy towards Afghanistan?
Burning Bridges: American Security Assistance and Human Rights in Mauritania
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