Mr. Garretson Al Smith, middle, at the World Mayors’ Conference in 2017 speaking on international security
WASHINGTON, DC —As West African nations continue to show signs of vulnerability to external, regional and internal terrorism with the growing presence of groups AQIM and IS in the Sahel region and Boko Haram in Nigeria, and with several sporadic attacks on the Ivory Coast and repeated attacks in Burkina Faso, there are emerging discussions in Washington, DC and New York to establish and provide early warning “Security Intelligence Post” for the Mano River Union basin region.
Some counter-terrorism and international security officials in the US are toiling with the concept of establishing such post in conjunction and collaboration with the Mano River Union’s secretariat based in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Several names, including that of Mr. Garretson Al Smith, a U.S. trained international security professional and anti-terrorism expert with vast years of working experience in tracking war crimes and crime against humanity cases, have come up as individual to most likely head the proposed Security Intelligence Post for Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast, four West African countries that make up the sub-regional body.
Smith is a former member of the U.S. K–for Kosovo Forces Multi-national Battle Group East, NATO International Security Mission in the Balkans under the United States Department of Defense; former contractor staffer for the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the White House Visitors’ Center.
If established, the “Security Intelligence Post” will coordinate intelligence information with security forces in all four Mano River Union nations as well as with the international community including western nations like the United States, UK, France, Germany, and Canada amongst others.
Globe Afrique reached out to Smith to get his view on the numerous terrorist attacks in the West African region. He said West African nations need to be ahead of terror groups by addressing concrete issues affecting their nations and people. He said nations in the sub-region must invest in and have their security infrastructure in place. That includes, he added, “developing messages for radio, TV, schools and ensuring that citizens have food security, access to health care, effective public transportation, electricity and of course, jobs.
“We also cannot have a normal security setting if we don’t have a trusted justice system,” he said. There is no society if made free of crime, but if these mechanisms are in place or put in place, the uniform security sector will be able to respond to crimes easily and faster in the sub-region.
Smith said there seem to be several businesses in the West African sub-region that are accused of ties to terror support. He asked, “Why are these businesses not being investigated before allowing them to register and operate in these West African states?”
The U.S. trained security expect said “it seems someone is conniving with and through a network in the sub-region because of the manipulation from actors to create this quasi-business. Recently, the U.S. government sanctioned certain businesses in West Africa for their alleged affiliations with terror groups.
According to sources, the establishment of the “Security Intelligence Post” would probably require a partnership between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the United Nations, the Europe Union and the Secretariat of the Mano River Union.
The idea of establishing such an entity began from the efforts of Jones Nhinson Williams, a public policy professional who has been pushing some members of Congress on Capitol Hills and the Trump administration in Washington, DC regarding issues of job creation, security imbalance, food insecurity concerns, and investment in innovation in West Africa, especially in the Mano River Union basin.
The Mano River Union (MRU) is an international association initially established between Liberia and Sierra Leone by the 3 October 1971 Mano River Declaration. It is named for the Mano River which begins in the Guinea highlands and forms a border between Liberia and Sierra Leone.