The U.S.-Tunisia partnership in the military and security domain is multifaceted. It is composed of defense capacity-building, strengthening border security , and as is so often emphasized, training partner forces in counterterrorism strategies and tactics. However, the questions of U.S. troops and drones operated out of Tunisia have been a source of polemic and its sensitivity should not be underestimated. American foreign policy is generally unpopular and unfavorable attitudes toward the United States are widespread in Tunisian society. For instance, in 2012 protesters outraged by an anti-Islamic short film ransacked the U.S. embassy and set fire to a nearby American school in the capital of Tunis. More recently, the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital triggered a wave of protests across Tunisia. The issue of U.S. military presence has also sparked controversy, being the subject of heated debates at the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, Tunisia’s parliament. On numerous occasions, there has been pressure on President Béji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on the matter of national sovereignty. Furthermore, the revelation of the clash in Kasserine eighteen months ago testifies to a deeper level U.S. involvement on the ground than AFRICOM is willing to admit. The details of the 2017 battle at Mount Semmama contribute to a slowly growing public understanding of the expansion of covert and overt military action on the African continent, where the United States is secretly at war .
Héni Nsaibia is a researcher at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). He is also the founder of Menastream, a risk consultancy providing intelligence analysis. Follow him on Twitter: @MENASTREAM .