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US military commander for Africa visits Algeria, meets President Tebboune

Townsend’s visit also comes as Russian paramilitaries, private-security instructors and companies grow in influence in the conflict-torn Sahel region.

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The head of the US military command for Africa visited Algeria on Monday, meeting President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and praising US ties with the North African country.

“The US appreciates the important role Algeria plays in promoting peace, security and prosperity in the region and beyond, and we hope to continue building on our strong bilateral relationship,” Africom commander General Stephen Townsend said in a video tweeted by the US embassy.

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In meetings also attended by Algerian army chief Said Chanegriha, Townsend discussed “security in the Sahel region and ways of expanding the capacities of countries in the region, notably in terms of the fight against terrorism,” said Algerian state media outlet APS.

Townsend visited Algeria in September 2020, but the latest tour was his first since Morocco became the fourth Arab state to normalize relations with Israel in December last year, to the ire of Rabat’s regional rival Algiers.

The US-backed deal also saw Washington recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara, which Morocco considers its sovereign territory but where Algeria has backed the Polisario independence movement.

Algeria, wary of instability on its borders, has been seeking a more active diplomatic role in the Sahel, pitching itself as a mediator in crises in neighboring Libya and Mali.

Townsend’s visit also comes as Russian paramilitaries, private-security instructors and companies grow in influence in the conflict-torn Sahel region.

Mali said on Saturday it would hire private Russian security firms, after reports the army-dominated government in Bamako was close to hiring 1,000 Wagner paramilitaries.

The Wagner group, close to the Kremlin, is already active in Libya.

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