After the major hostage crisis in eastern Algeria, security and political officials throughout North Africa are busy adjusting to the new security reality.
Many analysts have stated that the terrorist threat Tunisia faces remains low mainly because of their capable counter-terrorism capabilities. Additionally, unlike other “Arab Spring” countries, Tunisia does not have a history of internal strife, sectarian divide, or terrorism for that matter.
If we were able to put all the information concerning the security situation in Tunisia into a machine that could somehow calculate the risk of terrorism…I believe the machine would say HIGH...
Yet…when you speak to professionals on the ground …people who get paid to make these kinds of assessments, they usually take a deep breath, sit back in their chair, spend 10 minutes talking about all the security challenges in Tunisia and label the threat: Low-Medium.
Tunisia is Strategic
Known: Tunisia thwarted an attempt by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to establish a terror cell in the western regions of Kasserine and Jendouba- (December 13th 2012):
Assumption: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is “active” within Tunisia
For the past 3 months there’s been a wave of information concerning weapons proliferation and arrests which leads to the question:
Why isn’t anything major happening?
The answer has to do with the 3-key factors
- We’ve moved from mobs to organized threats
- We’re dealing with patient groups
- Strategic importance of Tunisia
Let’s be honest…
It is well documented that Tunisians are well represented within jihadist movements. The Guardian’s Martin Chulov wrote an excellent article on the challenges within Syria that underlines this point:
“A rebel commander told a story, as a warning of the dangers al-Qaida represented to Syrian society. Late last year the leaders of some towns in the Aleppo hinterland and the rebel commanders who move between them received word of a visitor.
“He was a Tunisian,” said the commander. “And he said he brought a message on behalf of Ayman al-Zawahiri [al-Qaida’s leader]. He asked us to join him and said there would be benefits for us if we did. He asked me to pledge a bayaa [oath of allegiance] to al-Qaida. I said no. This is what we all must do. If we continue with them, the Syria of our dreams will instead haunt our children in their nightmares.”
My humble opinion is that Tunisia is currently serving as a strategic point for jihadist groups that are more focus on countries like Syria and Mali. This arrangement, along with other factors, is the main reason why we have not seen more violent activities involving weapons.
The time is now for Expats to evaluate their personal security. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are you receiving good information regarding the security situation in Tunisia? Practical as well as big picture analysis.
2. Are you exercising good situational awareness? Make sure you are varying your routes and know where/when to explore.
In these challenging times we need to stay level-headed and connected. The best way we’ll do this is by sharing information that not only informs but also empowers.