German newspaper “Bild am Sonntag” said representatives of Germany’s Defense and Foreign ministries would be in Tunis on Thursday and Friday to discuss sending troops to Tunisia to help train Tunisian soldiers. Yet this appears to be only one of two planned training operations in Tunisia that Germany is planning. The training operation Bild is referring to is a joint German-Italian operation to train Libyan security forces, which it appears will now begin with Tunisian forces rather than Libya forces as originally planned. A second operation in which Germany with the United States would install an electronic surveillance system along Tunisia’s recently completed security barrier on its Libyan border is also being discussed at the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP).
In the interview German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told Bild Germany would “make every effort to support countries struggling with democracy such as Tunisia.” Von der Leyen also told Bild “if its direct neighbor Libya manages to put in place a unity government one day, its security forces could also benefit from established training facilities in Tunisia,”
Von der Leyen is referring to a joint Italian German training operation which was first revealed in documents leaked to the German publication ‘Der Speigel’ in January, 150-200 German soldiers, with an unspecified number of Italians, which would begin training Libyan forces in Tunisia in a few months. According to ‘Der Speigel’ the training would take place in Tunisia because of security concerns in neighboring Libya.
Then earlier this February, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged the operation at a joint press conference in Berlin. Although they provided fewer details than ‘Der Speigel’s’ leak, a joint statement issued afterwards said the two had discussed ‘new proposals aimed at establishing a joint training mission in Tunisia to strengthen security forces in neighboring Libya,”
Nearly a week before ‘Der Speigel’ revealed the leak the idea was being floated publicly. Martin Kobler, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) himself German who has spent most of his pre-UN career in Germany’s diplomatic corps, stated in the German press that “As soon as the security situation is better in the country, I can imagine that Germany will participate in the training of security officers in Libya,”
Well before then, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had already advanced the idea of a training program two weeks earlier at a mid-December ministerial meeting on Libya held in Rome, shortly before Kobler secured the Libyan Political Agreement on December 17, 2015, the agreement saw the formation of a Presidency Council tasked with forming a Government of National Accord.
Germany, it clearly appears, has also been in talks to conduct joint training operations with the very same Americans they once fought in Kasserine, when the Afrikakorps of Erwin Rommel first blooded the still inexperienced forces of U.S. General George Patton in the battle of Kasserine Pass.
In what appears to be a distinctly separate collaborative effort, Defense Minister Farhat Horchani forces has already been proposed the presence of German and U.S. forces, when on Saturday, February 7, he visited the military buffer zone along Tunisia’s border with Libya to announce the completion of construction of a 250 km security barrier, which runs south from the border crossing of Ras Jedir to Dhehiba. During the visit Horchani had added that military trainers from the United States and Germany arriving to help install electronic monitoring system and train the Tunisian military on its use.
Defense Minister Farhat Horchani then spoke to the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) on Monday, February 15, to argue for the further addition of an electronic surveillance system to the security barrier. Horchani told the ARP’s Armed Forces Administrative Organization and Affairs Committee that “The sand barrier erected by the Defense Ministry to protect our border is insufficient and should be reinforced by an electronic monitoring system, as part of an international cooperation with Germany and the United States.”
On Friday February 12, Horchani had already spoken to the Armed Forces Administrative Organization and Affairs Committee, in a meeting closed to the media, on security matters including Libya. A day earlier, on February 11, MosaiqueFM reported that “American experts” had already visited the Ras Jedir crossing on the Tunisian Libyan border to examine security infrastructure along the border ahead of a planned installation of an electronic surveillance system.
Horchani also stated that the deployment military advisers would require the signing of an agreement between Tunisia and the two countries, as well as the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) to drafting and approval of a legal framework concerning uniformed foreign military forces on Tunisian soil.