Former US Army Chief George Casey and Congressman Jim Kolbe argue that the transitions in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia will be reversible unless and until their security agencies are better equipped to carry out their functions without abusing citizen rights or interfering in politics. A New Deal: Reforming US Defense Cooperation with Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia urges the United States to reform its existing defense cooperation arrangements with North Africa’s transitioning democracies to better prepare the region’s militaries for modern threats and best promote civilian control of the armed forces.

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The report assesses the role of the armed forces in each country, the security challenges they face in the aftermath of the transitions, the nature of their defense relationship with the United States, and opportunities for reform. The authors urge the United States to remain engaged with Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia through robust defense cooperation, but argue that Washington must reform its existing defense cooperation programs to reflect new political realities.

To achieve that outcome, the authors urge the Obama administration and Congress to:

  • Reshape US security policies with transitioning states to ensure they advance priority US interests, meet the changing defense needs of the transitioning countries, and help rather than hurt the prospects for successful democratic transitions.
  • Stay engaged by providing military assistance to meet changing defense needs, but also include an interagency approach that incorporates economic and political support.
  • Prioritize Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia to ensure that these transitions succeed, setting a powerful example to other transitioning countries that democracy can exist in the heart of the Arab world.
  • Introduce an enhanced security dialogue with each of these countries that includes both military and civilian officials to sharpen thinking on defense requirements during the transitional phase, and to focus on threats, capabilities, defense agreements, and the role of the military in society.
  • Strengthen relationships with military and civilian officials in all three countries by expanding support for International Military Education and Training (IMET) exercises and civilian exchange programs.

Casey and Kolbe serve as co-chairs of the Atlantic Council’s North Africa Task Force, a group of leading experts in regional security and defense cooperation. This report is a joint initiative of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and was released at an event on April 19.

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