By Alexandra Jameson
The Department of State’s newest office covers a region stretching from the Atlantic Ocean, across the Sahara Desert, and along the Mediterranean more than 5,000 miles to the Red Sea. In July, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ (NEA) Office of North African Affairs (NA) was born from the merger of the Office of Egyptian Affairs and the Office of Maghreb Affairs, and now encompasses Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. This diverse region includes an active conflict in Libya, stoked by Russia and other external actors; a frozen conflict in Western Sahara; a blossoming young democracy in Tunisia; and a kingdom that was the first country in the world, Morocco, to seek diplomatic relations with a newly independent United States.
Since its founding in 1909, NEA has witnessed many regional shifts and alliances as geopolitics evolved, and their office structures have followed suit. While diverse, the region is also marked by transnational and interregional linkages, to which the merged office brings a unified perspective. Pressing matters include migrant flows from southern Africa to Europe, overlapping maritime claims in the Mediterranean, and terrorist groups that exploit Saharan smuggling routes. Another example of interregional links is the ongoing negotiation between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Multilateral affairs play a significant role in NEA/NA’s work. Tunisia currently sits on the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council. The U.N. has a peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara and a special political mission in Libya. Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria are all active members of the African Union and the Arab League.
In addition to regional stability and security interests, NEA/NA will focus on energy policy and economic and commercial development. North Africa includes many traditional tourist destinations and opportunities for U.S. investment on the African continent. NEA’s North Africa team is excited to work with five U.S. Missions and the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca to strengthen and expand the bilateral partnerships across this rich and dynamic region.
Alexandra Jameson is an Egypt desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ Office of North African Affairs.