|General Stresses Terrorism Reforms
Nowatzki, Mike. "General Stresses Terrorism Reforms." Forum, 17 December 2004.
The U.S. military needs to train more soldiers in northern Africa
to prevent the area from becoming a breeding ground for terrorists,
says a four-star Air Force general and North Dakota native.
Gen. Charles F. Wald is in Fargo today to receive an honorary doctorate
from North Dakota State University. He also will speak during the
commencement ceremony at 4 p.m. at the Fargodome.
As deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, Wald oversees
U.S. military operations across 21 million square miles in 91 countries
and territories in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Since the United States began applying pressure on terrorists in
the Middle East and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks,
the European Command has paid extra attention to activity in northern
Africa, Wald said in an interview Thursday.
The Sahara Desert's lack of government, loose borders and sparse
population make it a hotbed for smuggling, corruption and terrorist
recruiting and training, he said.
|Gen. Charles F. Wald Minot
native Receives degree from North Dakota State University
Two years ago, the military began the Pan Sahel Initiative, an effort
to train and equip soldiers in four African countries: Chad, Mali,
Mauritania and Niger.
About $7.5 million has been spent training 750 troops, Wald said.
Now, the European Command wants permission to continue and expand
the program to five additional countries -- Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria,
Senegal and Tunisia -- and change the name to the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism
The total area covered would be roughly equal to the land mass
of the continental United States, Wald said.
The military would spend about $300 million over the first five
years to train and equip troops and improve communications and intelligence
sharing between the countries, he said.
Wald said that area's most well-known terrorist group, the Salafist
Group for Preaching and Combat, has pledged allegiance to the al-Qaidi
terrorist network and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
"It's an issue that's festering and growing and could potentially
become a big problem," Wald said. "We want to get ahead
of it before it does become a big problem like it did in Afghanistan."
Wald said he expects the plan to receive approval from military
leaders as early as next week before being forwarded to Congress.
A Minot native, Wald graduated from NDSU in 1971 with a bachelor's
degree in political science with a pre-law option. He holds a master's
degree in political science from Troy State University and completed
the program for senior officials in national security at Harvard
NDSU is proud of Wald's successes, wrote Thomas Riley, dean of
arts, humanities and social sciences, in a nomination letter for
the doctorate degree.
"When he left NDSU, I am sure that neither Charles Wald nor
the faculty and staff who mentored him here could imagine that he
would one day have direct operational response for the defense of
much of Western Europe, Southwest Asia including Afghanistan, and
West Africa as his responsibility," Riley wrote.
The ex-fighter pilot said his experience at NDSU, which included
participating in the ROTC program and facing national competition
as a member of the Bison football team, helped to shape his career.
Wald was a star wide receiver on the 1969 national champion football
"That gave me the confidence that there was something I could
do bigger, so it made a big difference," Wald said.
Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Fargo, North Dakota