Links between Qaeda, Polisario: Major threat to region's stability
WASHINGTON - The interconnection of interest and the collusion between Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Polisario would give rise to a "formidable" terrorist organisation with a destabilisation effect on the whole region, the U.S. think tank Carnegie Endowment warns.
"AQIM and its offshoots in the Sahel are already working to expand their partnership with smugglers from massive refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, and to enlist recruits among the disenchanted youth there. If AQIM strengthened its alliance of convenience with the Polisario (...) a formidable terrorist organization could emerge," the think tank says in a report.
“Young Sahrawis in the camps are becoming increasingly disenchanted by the failure of the nationalist agenda and upset by the perceived corruption and clientelism of the Polisario elites”, according to the report.
The report notes that "the involvement of Sahrawi youths in narcotrafficking is also becoming a disturbing reality," adding that these "Sahrawis are increasingly socially isolated, lack direction, and have no prospects in sight."
The Sahrawi youths "feel abandoned by their aging and out of touch leadership, and turning to criminal networks becomes a way of turning against a regime that has failed them" and "it is in this context of increasing criminal activity and social tensions in the camps that AQIM's presence becomes threatening," the report further says.
“The partnerships between AQIM and elements of the Polisario may not be based on ideological affinity and are not as widespread as is feared, but they do exist and constitute a major security threat to the Maghreb and the Sahel. The fear has always been that the frustration that leads to criminality might also lead to militancy and criminal terrorism” the report notes.
In this respect, the report cites Mali's accusations against the Polisario of being a major player in the region's drugtrafficking industry, with Polisario elements engaged with AQIM in kidnapping operations and using Malian territory for drug trafficking.