Mauritania: NATO’s partner on Africa’s Atlantic coast

A NATO delegation consisting of both military and civilian officials has completed a visit to Mauritania. The African nation borders the Atlantic Ocean on its west, Western Sahara to its northwest and Mali to its east.

The NATO officials discussed strengthening military collaboration with the country, which has been a member of the military bloc’s Mediterranean Dialogue partnership since 1995. (Though Mauritania is separated from the Mediterranean by Algeria.) That intensified cooperation will include NATO providing “additional advice, training and capacity building activities in support to Mauritanian national defence and security structures and institutions,” according to the NATO report on the visit.

Among other local officials, the NATO delegation met with the country’s foreign minister and defense chief as well as with officials at the G5 Sahel Defence College. (The G5 Sahel Joint Force consists of forces from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.)

Earlier this year the president of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, paid the first-ever visit by a head of state of his nation to NATO headquarters in Belgium. At the time NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “I am pleased to say we have agreed on an enhanced dialogue on counter-terrorism; this dialogue can lead to greater cooperation between NATO and Mauritania, including on border security and countering improvised explosive devices.”

NATO’s report on the visit to Mauritania includes the following overview:

“During this month’s NATO Summit in Brussels, Allied leaders pointed out that the deteriorating situation in the Sahel region matters to NATO’s collective security. They made clear that NATO’s approach to the Sahel is currently focused on our long-standing partnership with Mauritania, and that Allies also continue to engage in dialogue with relevant NATO partners, representatives from the Sahel region, international and regional organisations and entities such as the African Union, the G5 Sahel structures, the UN, and the EU, as well as with the Coalition for the Sahel. NATO will enhance its engagement with the G5 Sahel structures and remains open, upon request, to consider further engagements in the region.”

The same report mentioned that the 30-nation military bloc has constructed munitions depots in the country, trained military personnel there and assisted in establishing four crisis management centers in the country.

Unlike NATO’s other 39 partners except Ireland and Morocco, Mauritania at least is on the Atlantic Ocean if not on the north of it.