By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
RABAT, Morocco, Feb. 12, 2006 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived here today, after spending the morning in Tunisia and the afternoon in Algeria during a series of visits designed to strengthen the military relationships between the United States and the three North African nations.
Rumsfeld is scheduled to meet with King Mohammed VI tomorrow.
In his Algeria visit, Rumsfeld met in Algiers with President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and Defense Minister Delegate Abdelmalek Guenaizia. The president is defense minister under Algeria’s constitution.
Flanked by Bouteflika outside the presidential palace after their one-hour meeting, the secretary said he’d had a “thoroughly interesting and helpful visit.”
“The United States values greatly our close cooperation in the counterterrorism efforts,” he said. “We had the pleasure of meeting with your representative in Sicily recently in terms of the Mediterranean Dialogue countries and their relationship with NATO. We look forward to strengthening our military-to-military relationship and our cooperation in counterterrorism.”
Rumsfeld said the United States values Algeria’s cooperation in counterterrorism because “it is important to both our countries.” He also noted that this is not the only area of cooperation between the two nations.
“The United States and Algeria have a multifaceted relationship that involves political and economic as well as military-to-military cooperation,” he said.
About 99 percent of Algerians are of Arab-Berber ethnicity and are Sunni Muslims. Terrorist violence in the country has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 1991, though the situation has improved in recent years, according to State Department officials, and cooperation between the U.S. and Algerian militaries has grown.
Rumsfeld elaborated on his meeting with Algeria’s president aboard his aircraft as it prepared to fly to Morocco.
“He has been through a lot in that country, and people look at it from the outside,” the secretary said. “He described it from the inside, as to what took place and how they fought off the terrorism problem and the problem of extremism, and the numbers of people who were killed or beheaded, and the task of persuading the Algerian people that their future was in a forward-looking, economically prosperous, democratic system, as opposed to violence and extremism.”
Rumsfeld said Bouteflika described how succeeding in such a task “is not a military matter alone, or even primarily.”
“It is economic, it’s political and it’s cultural,” he said. “And I was musing as he talked about the fact that so many people looking at it from the outside had so many ideas and critiques, and opined on this and opined on that, and it was very different from where he was.
“And it’s instructive for us to recognize that the struggle we’re in is not unlike the struggle that the people of Algeria went through — that it takes time, a long time. That it takes patience. That it, as he pointed out, requires constantly adapting to the different circumstances as they evolve.”
The secretary said that while military lessons were learned from Algeria’s struggle with terrorism, it’s also helpful to recognize the multidimensional aspect of the problem.
“We have in them a good partner in the struggle against extremism,” Rumsfeld said. “Certainly they are a thoughtful, constructive, moderate voice in this part of the world and they have been for many, many years.”
In Carthage, Tunisia, earlier in the day, the secretary visited the North Africa American Cemetery, where crosses mark the final resting places of more than 2,841 servicemembers, including 240 unknowns, from World War II.
Cemetery officials said the graves represent about 39 percent of the burials originally made in North Africa and Iran. Most gave their lives in the landings in and occupation of Morocco and Algeria and in subsequent fighting that led to Tunisia’s liberation, officials said.
Others, they added, died as a result of accident or sickness in North Africa or while serving in the Persian Gulf Command in Iran. A 364-foot-long wall, The Tablets of the Missing, lists the names of 3,724 Americans whose names either never were identified or were buried at sea in the waters off the African coast.
Rumsfeld laid a wreath at the Court of Honor. Within the court is a rectangular stone of remembrance made of black Diorite d’Anzola quarried in northwest Italy. An inscription worked into the mosaic panel surrounding the base reads: “Some there be which have no sepulcher. Their name liveth forever more.”
In his meeting with King Mohammed tomorrow, the secretary said he hopes to discuss Mediterranean Dialogue issues and Morocco’s participation in NATO’s Active Endeavor patrols. “I always have found it helpful to have the benefit and the perspective of His Majesty.”
Besides Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, Mediterranean Dialogue countries include Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania. All seven countries had representatives at the NATO defense ministers’ informal meeting in Taormina, Italy, which Rumsfeld attended Feb. 9 and 10.