Introduction

Matt Herbert
Matt Herbert is a partner at Maharbal, a Tunisian consulting firm specializing in security, strategic governance, and the rule of law. He is a PhD candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a research fellow at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has faced the difficult task of sustaining a democratic transition amid rising security challenges. Multiple terrorist attacks have killed foreign tourists, Tunisian civilians, and security personnel. Additionally, the conflict next door in Libya poses a persistent danger, a reality underscored in 2016 when militants with the self-proclaimed Islamic State staged a raid on a Tunisian city on the border.

These dramatic incidents have largely overshadowed a more violent and protracted conflict in Tunisia’s northwestern governorates. Over seven years, the Tunisian Army, the National Guard, and police forces have been locked in a bloody fight against two jihadi groups: Katiba Uqba ibn Nafi (KUIN), affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Islamic State–linked Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia (JAK-T). At least 127 militants and 118 soldiers, national guardsmen, and police officers have been killed in the northwest. More than 200 security and defense personnel have been wounded, a figure that comprises the majority of casualties suffered by those forces since the revolution.1

The nature of the conflict in Tunisia’s northwest differs from the country’s other security challenges in that it mirrors an insurgency rather than a protracted terrorist campaign. Attacks overwhelmingly target security and defense forces, the groups maintain a permanent territorial presence, and they have worked to build support among the local populations. Nearly all of the groups’ fighters are Tunisian, recruited from throughout the country.2

KUIN and JAK-T have achieved only limited success in undermining the Tunisian state. The groups remain fairly small, and they do not have the capacity to seize and hold a small rural village, let alone larger populated areas. The militants’ support base in the northwest is limited, and financial inducements rather than ideology motivate most supporters.3

But, while the groups are not winning, they not losing either. Despite fierce government pressure, they have survived and quadrupled in size. They are well positioned to exploit changes in the regional situation, be it a degradation in the economy or democratic backsliding in Tunisia, or a contested political transition in Algeria. KUIN in particular works closely with AQIM groups in Algeria. This transborder character ensures that a crisis in either Algeria or Tunisia could deepen the security challenge for both.

Given the resilience of the militant groups in the northwest, the government of Tunisia and international partners should reassess their strategic approach to the conflict. Technical security fixes are insufficient to address the threat. Also insufficient is an approach that focuses only on eliminating militants. Rather, to defeat the insurgency in the northwest, the conditions that enabled KUIN and JAK-T to thrive must be strategically addressed. Unless that happens, the groups will almost certainly endure and continue to threaten Tunisia’s stability.

Economic Marginalization and Social Frustration

The militants leverage several key trends in Tunisia to build their strength. Of these, the continued deterioration of the country’s economic situation, particularly in the northwest, is by far the most dangerous.

The governorates of Kasserine and Kef are at the center of the KUIN and JAK-T challenge, while intermittent clashes occur in Jendouba, Sidi Bouzid, and Gafsa (see figure 1). These five governorates are home to nearly 1.8 million Tunisians.

Residents of these governorates have limited socioeconomic opportunities and poor access to education and healthcare. Many are unemployed,4 with youth unemployment and underemployment acute problems.

These inequalities are symptomatic of the region’s long-standing marginalization. Before independence, the region was only weakly under Tunis’s control and buffeted by frequent rebellions. After independence, successive Tunisian presidents Habib Bourguiba and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali systematized the economic and political marginalization of the northwest, as well as the rest of the country’s interior, by concentrating economic and political power in coastal governorates. There is an enduring belief in the interior that the region’s natural resources have been siphoned away from the population and leveraged to benefit other regions. The people are frustrated that few government services or economic benefits have been received in return.5

Facing limited economic opportunities and limited political sway in Tunis, citizens in the northwest have repeatedly taken to the streets. Since independence, three out of the four national protest movements have begun in the interior—either in northwestern governorates or in those immediately to the south and east.6 The most well-known example was the 2011 uprising that toppled Ben Ali, in which police killed dozens of protesters in Kasserine.

In the wake of Ben Ali’s ouster, there was significant optimism in the marginalized northwest that daily life would improve. Yet, over the last seven years, this hope has given way to weariness and frustration.7 Successive governments have done little to better the economy of the northwest or to address its socioeconomic problems. There is a sense among youth that, despite the blood shed during the revolution, the region’s isolation has deepened rather than abated. They also believe that political parties have betrayed them. “The state must act to prevent this despair from morphing,” warned one NGO official.8

The country’s deepening economic crisis and the resulting austerity measures that the government has enacted have left many young Tunisians with the sense that they have few good options. As a result, some have joined the protests, including in January 2018 when strikes and clashes with police broke out in Kasserine and Kef. In a town in Kasserine near the Algerian border, protesters burned the police station to the ground.

Others have taken to the migrant boats. Numerous young men and women from the northwest have joined a broader clandestine exodus of Tunisians to Europe. Between January 2017 and May 2018, Italian and Tunisian authorities apprehended over 15,000 Tunisian irregular migrants, a level of migration unseen since the months immediately after the revolution that toppled Ben Ali.9

Militancy Between Independence and the Revolution

Grievances and economic need have propelled a smaller number toward the mountains in the northwest, where KUIN and JAK-T units operate. These Tunisians become either recruits or supporters of those groups. It remains to be seen how deepening austerity will impact this flow, especially if increased enforcement of those measures curtails irregular migration. However, absent a reversal in the economic situation, a distinct danger exists that local engagement with KUIN and JAK-T will increase. “These people have always been the poorest in Tunisia, neglected by the government for years,” warned a Tunisian legal official. “Some feel terror is the only way to combat the government.”10

Despite the persistent economic and political marginalization of the northwest, internal security threats in the region were rare before the revolution. Most involved cross-border raids on Tunisian border posts, security patrols, and, in one case, the city of Gafsa. Only one serious effort was made to develop an insurgent presence in Tunisia. In 2006, Algeria’s Groupe Salafiste Pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) dispatched a small unit to Kasserine and on to the outskirts of Tunis. Despite the unit’s rapid recruitment of three dozen members, it failed to develop either significant military capacity or local support, and it was rapidly eliminated when discovered. This appears to have convinced GSPC leaders to expand elsewhere in the region, reinforcing a local view that Tunisian security service capabilities made the country too difficult to operate in.

Local and regional perceptions of Tunisian security capabilities changed after the 2011 revolution, as security forces wavered across the country. In the borderlands, the intelligence networks that had guarded against militant infiltration evaporated. Informants were unmasked and threatened, while units saw personnel changes that hobbled their effectiveness. In Tunis, the Ministry of Interior disbanded the Directorate of State Security, which had overseen strategic information gathering on the frontier. Due to Ministry of Interior compartmentalization, other directorates had little understanding of the border intelligence-collection strategy and were unable to maintain it.11 In disarray, Tunisia’s security forces lost their ability to monitor and control what was happening in the northwest. AQIM moved to exploit the opening.

AQIM Militants Build Their Strength in 2011 and 2012

AQIM operations in Tunisia began within months of the revolution. The first clash with Tunisian forces occurred in May 2011 in Siliana Governorate, near the border with Kasserine. At first, the incident was dismissed as isolated. It was not. It came as part of AQIM’s efforts to establish a permanent presence on Mount Chaambi, a massif stretching from the Algerian border to the city of Kasserine. The mountain’s rugged terrain helped fighters conceal themselves from government observation, and provided substantial cover against attack.12

Initially, the group largely avoided encounters with Tunisian security forces, staging only three attacks in two years. The small number of AQIM militants who had arrived from Algeria instead focused on recruiting in the settlements and towns in the border region, emphasizing ideology and leveraging economic frustration and grievances.13 Financial inducements played a prominent role. An NGO member in Kasserine described how two militants from his town joined AQIM because the group “gave [them] money.” The militants also recruited in coastal areas, drawing a more ideologically committed cadre. These recruits included hardline members of Ansar al-Sharia, a domestic Salafist group that the Tunisian government designated as a terrorist organization in August 2013.

To equip recruits, AQIM procured an arsenal of Kalashnikov and Steyr rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades.14 Its approach to weapons acquisition became the basic model that militants in the northwest subsequently employed. Some of the weapons were sourced from long-standing AQIM arms-trafficking networks that ran through eastern Algeria. Other arms—primarily Steyr rifles—were captured from Tunisian forces.15 Weaponry was purchased on the robust cross-border market in hunting weapons and ammunition, some imported and some produced by artisanal gunsmiths in Algeria and Tunisia.16

Finally, AQIM cultivated local supporters who could deliver supplies and surveil security forces. Here too, the approach pioneered by AQIM is the model used today. Ideology or family connections motivated some supporters, but most assisted because the militants bought their support.17 Due to limited economic options in the area, many individuals were willing to risk arrest to sell goods or services to the militant groups at heavily inflated prices.18 The group financed these outlays and other expenses with contributions from supporters abroad and through the taxation and protection of local smugglers and narcotics traffickers.19

By late 2012, the AQIM unit on Mount Chaambi had renamed itself Katiba Uqba ibn Nafi. It had built a local support base and grown to forty fighters. “When we became aware that there was a real danger it was too late,” explained one retired official. “The militants were settled on the mountain.”20

The KUIN Offensive

A stronger KUIN became more operationally active in early 2013. This may have been linked to the leadership of Musa Abu Dawud, a senior AQIM commander who assumed control over units in Tunisia and a 150–200-strong unit based in contiguous parts of eastern Algeria in February 2013.21

In 2013 and 2014, the militants assaulted Tunisian military and security posts and barracks, staged operations in regional towns and cities, and expanded their operational reach to the north and east. In the governorate of Jendouba, militants staged a fake roadblock, a common tactic in the Algerian conflict, killing two guardsmen. And in Kef and Kasserine, militants kidnapped, assassinated, and beheaded security force personnel. While most attacks lacked sophistication, some entailed complex ambushes involving large numbers of fighters.22 Insurgents even raided the home of the minister of interior in the city of Kasserine, killing four officers.

In May 2013, an improvised explosive device (IED) injured two army sergeants on Mount Chaambi. These were the first casualties from what has been the most persistent and deadly threat in western Tunisia. Between 2013 and 2017, at least thirty-nine IED attacks were reported in Kasserine, Kef, and Jendouba, killing or injuring over 100 soldiers and guardsmen.23

These IEDs are relatively crude. They are made using plastic bottles or tubs filled with ammonium nitrate, TNT, or another type of explosive and wired to a pressure plates or phones.24 Most are small antipersonnel mines, though militants also have larger devices to target vehicles.25 IED precursors are routinely discovered in captured militant camps, which suggests that most production is domestic. However, the large number of IED precursors and devices uncovered in Algeria raises the possibility that some are smuggled across the border.

KUIN’s offensive spurred the government to act. The military was tasked with addressing the insurgency challenge and establishing a closed military zone around Mount Chaambi. Tunisian soldiers deployed to man checkpoints or establish mobile forces around the perimeter of the mountain.26 To further seal off the area, guardsmen operated in a band behind the army. Within the military zone, the army conducted regular patrols and sweeps. Occasionally, these operations led to the discovery and destruction of militant camps or clashes with militant groups.27 Mainly, however, the sweeping operations led to an increase in IED-related casualties.

Rather than containing KUIN, government pressure drove the group to expand its operations to six nearby mountains in Kasserine and one in Kef (see figure 2). KUIN took strategic advantage of its proximity to the border, at times escaping into Algeria when government sweeps became too intense.

However, even as it expanded, KUIN fractured. In 2014, a unit broke away, declared allegiance to the Islamic State, and renamed itself Jund al-Khilafah.28 Other KUIN fighters subsequently defected to JAK-T, allowing the group to grow rapidly and supplant KUIN’s presence on three mountains. On three other mountains, the groups uneasily coexisted. KUIN maintained full control over only Mount Chaambi and Mount Ouargha in Kef.

The Emergence of JAK-T Amid Broader Turmoil

In 2015, JAK-T emerged and increased the fighting in the northwest. JAK-T maintained a strategic approach that was similar to KUIN’s and primarily targeted security and defense forces.29 However, the two groups differed on the use of violence against civilians.

KUIN eschewed attacks on civilians as part of a strategic approach to build a base of support.30 As a result, from 2011 to 2015, civilian casualties were usually accidental—they were injured during firefights or by IEDs.

JAK-T, in contrast, used the targeted killing of civilians to intimidate local populations. The first example of this came in 2015, when the group kidnapped a teenage shepherd, accused him of spying, and beheaded him. Despite national outrage over the killing—which was videotaped and made public—JAK-T also kidnapped and decapitated the shepherd’s older brother in 2017.

These killings, along with the assassination of a soldier in his home, have had the desired effect. Fears of militant retaliation impacted civilian willingness to share information and cooperate with security forces.31

Continued violence in the northwest and the emergence of JAK-T were largely overshadowed by events in Tunis and on the coast. In 2015, terrorist attacks in Tunis and Sousse killed seventy-four people, mostly foreign tourists or Presidential Guard personnel.

In the wake of these attacks, President Beji Caid Essebsi declared the country to be “in a state of war.” The government instituted a state of emergency, which provided wider-ranging authority to security and defense forces. A number of Ministry of Interior directors general and commanders who had been fired after the revolution returned to service.32

The security campaign grew in intensity, leading to a spike in KUIN and JAK-T casualties in 2015 (see figure 3). The concurrent decline in government casualties, which had peaked in 2014, suggested that the security and defense forces had learned how to fight and survive the insurgents (see figure 4).

Tunisian security forces have improved in other ways as well. Less visibly, but just as important, the government has addressed the poor coordination between the military, the National Guard, and police forces.

Under former president Ben Ali, this gap in coordination was intentionally designed to minimize the potential for coups. But it proved dangerously unsuited for the post-revolutionary challenge of terrorism and insurgency.

To rectify the situation, the government developed new coordination and intelligence structures, including a National Security Council, a National Commission on Counter-Terrorism, and a National Intelligence Center. At the tactical level, security forces increased intelligence coordination and developed joint task forces and joint raids.33

These efforts achieved some positive results and built momentum to deepen connections among the forces. But interforce coordination in Tunisia is still a work in progress, stymied by institutional rivalries and ingrained bureaucratic antipathy to change.

In the northwest, raids demonstrated the rising tactical capacity of Tunisia’s counterterrorism forces, while their targeting and effectiveness underscored the rebound in the country’s intelligence capacity. The government created more closed military zones, including all mountains where KUIN and JAK-T operated in Kasserine and Kef, and it deployed more military personnel.34 The government augmented these initiatives with an increase in intelligence-driven counterterrorism missions. Army, National Guard, and police counterterrorism units, sometimes working in tandem, repeatedly targeted KUIN and JAK-T commanders and key personnel, seriously impacting command and control within the groups.35 In particular, the repeated elimination of these leaders led to the fragmentation of KUIN into several loosely connected units.

Containment and Raiding Since 2016

The government has improved its strategy for addressing KUIN and JAK-T, as well as its capacity to respond. The security forces, especially elite units, have learned how to prosecute a highly kinetic, enemy-centric campaign. These successes have kept KUIN and JAK-T largely contained for the last two years.

With containment and counterterrorism raids, the government blunted the ability of KUIN and JAK-T to operate outside of their mountain bases.36 The number of clashes fell sharply.

In part, this operational lull could be attributed to successful government policies.37 However, it is likely the two groups also sought to limit clashes to rebuild their strength after losing at least ninety-five fighters in the 2013–2015 offensive.38

By early 2018, the militants’ efforts to rebuild their strength resulted in KUIN and JAK-T growing to between 175 and 185 fighters.39 The majority of these combatants are Tunisian, though some hail from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Most are recruited and trained in Tunisia. But as the conflict in Syria moves into its end stages, Tunisians fighting there have begun to return home. In late 2017, a dozen fighters reportedly transited from Syria to Libya, before traveling to the Tunisia-Algeria border. The tendency of Tunisian foreign fighters to join the Islamic State in Syria and Libya, rather than al-Qaeda, suggests that returning fighters will primarily benefit JAK-T.

The fighters operate across eight mountains in small groups of one to two dozen.40 The units operate autonomously, rarely coming together for joint operations. The two militant groups are roughly the same size, though continued KUIN defections and heightened JAK-T recruitment suggest the latter will soon become the largest group in the northwest.

Despite this growth, the strategic containment of the groups has been aided by the failure of KUIN and JAK-T to attract broad-based support in the northwest. Employing little public messaging or other visible efforts to build a popular support base, the two groups appear to have pinned their hopes on achieving an implausible military victory alone.

Yet the groups’ operational activity continues to decline. Most clashes with security forces, when they occur, involve IEDs aimed at government patrols. In fewer instances, militants have staged complex ambushes on patrols, attacked border security posts, engaged in targeted assaults on vehicles transporting prisoners, and—in a first for northwestern Tunisia—employed IED belts when confronted with capture.41

The decline in militant operations is attributable in part to logistical difficulties. Between 2016 and 2018, over 100 militant supporters were arrested, primarily in Kasserine or Kef, crimping militants’ abilities to access food and equipment.42 Growing deprivation has sparked at least one low-level clash between KUIN and JAK-T, and it has driven militants to raid stores and homes to forcibly requisition supplies.43

Still, in some ways, KUIN is becoming more difficult to counter. As KUIN faces challenges in western Tunisia, it is becoming even more intertwined with the larger AQIM project. AQIM has lost territory in its traditional stronghold in north-central Algeria and has relocated to areas in eastern Algeria close to the Tunisian border. The number of clashes on the Algerian side of the border has grown, including a small uptick in IED attacks (see figure 5). Increasingly, the area between Kasserine and Kef and the Algerian wilayas of Tébessa, El Oued, and Khenchela are in effect a single battlespace. KUIN and al-Fath al-Mubin, an AQIM unit in eastern Algeria, move back and forth across the border to escape government pressure, share skills and supplies, and stage raids.44 These connections increase the resilience of militant units on both sides of the frontier and complicate unilateral efforts by Algeria and Tunisia to address the threat.

The growing cross-border nature of militancy heightens the importance of effective coordination and information sharing between Algerian and Tunisian forces. Security cooperation between the two governments, which reached a low point in the wake of the revolution, has improved significantly due to changes in Tunisia’s government, increasing KUIN attacks, and growing violence in Algeria’s border areas.45 Meetings between high-level commanders and joint exercises are increasingly routine, while officers stationed along the border meet regularly, exchange threat information, and discuss planned operations.46 These efforts have had an impact, but they have yet to fully address the problem.

Challenges and Recommendations

While KUIN and JAK-T are not winning, they are surviving—and there are many ways they can leverage dynamics in Tunisia to their advantage.

Government forces have expended significant effort to destroy the groups, but they have been unable to do so. Rather, the number of militants has risen four-fold since 2012. There is a risk their ranks will grow further, fueled both by experienced Tunisian foreign fighters returning from Syria and by Tunisian youth who otherwise would have gone abroad to fight. This return of foreign fighters may further enhance the operational capabilities of the militants.

KUIN and JAK-T will also profit from Tunisia’s worsening economic situation. Facing few good economic options, in early 2018 the government raised taxes and allowed price increases on a host of products, including staples such as bread and fuel. Many middle- and lower-class families are being pushed to the economic edge. Protests, which exploded dramatically in January 2018, continue intermittently throughout the country. This situation opens opportunities for militants to recruit more fighters and supporters by playing on rising grievances or leveraging the need that many residents have for opportunities to make a living. This risk will be heightened if European nations pressure Tunisia to limit irregular migration, which will significantly increase social tensions and grievances.

Popular frustrations with Tunisia’s political processes and efforts to decentralize power present another opportunity for militants. The inability of successive governments to deliver on political promises or to significantly improve the quality of life for most Tunisians has fed growing pessimism about politicians and political parties. The low turnout for the May 2018 municipal elections vividly underscored this discontent. There is a significant risk that citizen disillusionment could worsen, especially if the newly elected municipal councils are unable to quickly or adequately address local needs, concerns, and expectations. This could present a dangerous opening for militant recruitment and the cultivation of support networks, especially in historically marginalized areas such as Kasserine and Jendouba.

At a regional level, there is also reason to closely watch trends in Algeria. Tunisia’s efforts to contain KUIN and JAK-T benefit from Algeria’s ferocious counterterrorism and border security efforts. However, Algeria faces its own challenges, including deepening economic malaise and rising social tensions. The country will inevitably go through a leadership transition in the coming years; what is unclear is the impact this will have on security broadly, and specifically on the Tunisian border. Given the cross-border activities of KUIN, any shift in the level of control on the Algerian side of the border will have significant security impacts in Tunisia.

Due to these risks, the present moment should be viewed not as a victory over the militants, but as an unstable pause. The government should work to address current economic and political challenges to head off increased militancy, and the security and defense forces should work to rectify the significant internal challenges they continue to face.

In the field, more personnel are needed to secure the exclusion zones in Kasserine and Kef. The forces deployed are relatively small in relation to the size of the region they are tasked with controlling, requiring patrols to be spaced relatively far apart. This limits the effectiveness of the military cordon and leaves units isolated and vulnerable to attack.47

Field forces require more equipment and training as well. Specifically, the number of IED casualties has placed a premium on armored vehicles. A counter-IED school in Bizerte trains Tunisian military forces on international best practices, catering primarily to military engineering units.48 But it is unclear whether any counter-IED training is provided in the basic or continuous training curricula for military and National Guard personnel, or whether it has filtered down to frontline units.

Tunisia should further build coordination and information sharing among security and defense forces. While this should occur at all levels, it is essential for field-deployed units. This will require further structural shifts—breaking down the processes that impeded coordination and information sharing and building new ones. It will also entail a far more difficult attitudinal shift among mid-level and command personnel.

The fight against KUIN and JAK-T has also impeded security sector reform. Grievances against the security sector were a driver of the 2011 revolution. Since then, the Ministry of Interior, supported by foreign partners, has gradually taken steps to reform the security sector, including efforts to shift how security forces conceptualize their mission and how they engage with citizens. While some officials in the Ministry of Interior accept that security sector reform will benefit efforts to address the security challenges, this sentiment is not widespread. Rather, reform efforts have slowed since 2015, ostensibly due to the need to first address the militant challenge.49

Tunisia should ensure the countermilitant fight does not stymie its security sector reform process. Reforms will aid security forces’ effective delivery of services in ways that are not coercive, and such improvements will build popular trust in the services and operational effectiveness. Both are essential elements in the struggle against KUIN and JAK-T. Failed reforms, however, or a reform process that is only partially accomplished, risk inflaming grievances and mistrust among citizens and the security forces. This would make it easier for militants to recruit fighters and supporters.

More generally, the government is challenged by how it conceptualizes the issue in the northwest. Tunisia’s current enemy-centric approach to KUIN and JAK-T has achieved some successes, but it has not delivered strategic success. The militants routinely replace fighters that have been killed or captured. And while the militants’ support base appears to have shrunk, there are still many willing to sell goods and services to the groups. Further, JAK-T’s growing efforts to coerce civilians have impacted local willingness to provide information and assistance to government forces.

Strategic success would be furthered by a comprehensive, population-centric strategy against the militants, one aimed at resolving the economic and governance challenges that the groups exploit. Such an approach will require a reallocation of already-scarce resources. While it will achieve some immediate successes, it will take time to yield key results.

Though complex, a comprehensive, population-centric strategy is the most feasible means of both ending the conflict and addressing the economic frustrations, political grievances, and despair that percolate in the northwest. Absent this, KUIN and JAK-T will endure, posing a persistent threat Tunisia’s stability.

Matt Herbert is a partner at Maharbal, a Tunisian consulting firm specializing in security, strategic governance, and the rule of law. He is a PhD candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a research fellow at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Notes

1 Author interview with Tunisian security experts, Tunis, January and February 2018; and author database of media reports and Tunisian government press releases.

2 Author interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, January and April 2018.

3 Author interview with Aaron Y. Zelin, remote, February 2018.

4 Author calculations drawn from data provided by Statistique Tunisien.

5 Author interview with NGO representative, Kef, March 2015.

6 These include the 1984 bread riots, the 2011 protest movement, and the 2016 protest movement. While the 1978 Tunisian General Labor Union strike occurred in the west, it was not initiated there.

7 Author interview with international NGO representative, remote, July 2016.

8 Author interviews with a Tunisian human rights advocate and an NGO representative, Tunis, January and February 2018.

9 Author database of government and media reports. Data is accurate as of May 23, 2018.

10 Author interview with Tunisian legal official, Tunis, March 2015.

11 Author interview with retired Tunisian security official, Tunis, November 2017.

12 Author interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, January 2018.

13 For additional examples, please see the following sources: Mosaïque FM, “Foussana: Des habitants mettent la main sur un terroriste (Photos)” [Foussana: residents get their hands on a terrorist], August 29, 2017, https://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/actualite-regional-tunisie/194577/foussana-des-habitants-mettent-la-main-sur-un-terroriste; Mosaïque FM, “Kasserine: Identité du deuxième terroriste abattu” [Kasserine: The identity of the second terrorist shot], August 9, 2017, https://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/actualite-regional-tunisie/184558/kasserine-identite-du-deuxieme-terroriste-abattu; and Mosaïque FM, “Kasserine: détails sur le terroriste abattu à Aïn Fara” [Kasserine: details on the terrorist shot in Aïn Fara], February 17, 2017, https://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/actualite-faits-divers/97423/kasserine-details-sur-le-terroriste-abattu-a-ain-fara.

14 Author database of media reports and Tunisian government press releases.

15 For additional information, please see the following sources: author interview with Tunisian security researcher, Tunis, January 2018; Tunisian Ministry of Interior, “Ajoumhouria Atounisya bawabat wazart adakhiliyah: balagh” [Republic of Tunisia’s portal for the Ministry of Interior: public notice] August 9, 2017, http://www.interieur.gov.tn/actualite/2086/بـلاغ; and Mosaïque FM, “Ministère de la Défense: Bilan de l’opération de Jendouba” [Ministry of Defense: review of the Jendouba operation], July 26, 2016, https://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/actualite-regional-tunisie/21747/ministere-de-la-defense-bilan-de-l-operation-de-jendouba.

16 For additional information, please see the following sources: author interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, January 2018; and Tunis Afrique Presse, “Nearly 300 cartridges seized in two illegal warehouses in Bizerte,” January 18, 2018, https://www.tap.info.tn/en/Portal-Regions/9767914-nearly-300.

17 Author interview with Tunisian journalist, Kasserine, March 2015; author interview with Tunisian NGO director, Tunis, March 2015; and author interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, January 2018.

18 Author interview with Tunisian journalist, Kasserine, March 2015.

19 Author interview with Tunisian security researcher, Tunis, January 2018.

20 Author interview with retired Tunisian security official, Tunis, November 2017.

21 Author interview with Tunisian anti-terrorism expert, Tunis, March 2015.

22 Interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, May 2016.

23 Author database of media reports and Tunisian government press releases.

24 Author interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, February 2018.

25 For more information, please see the following source: Tunisian Ministry of the National Defense, “balagh”[public notice] February 10, 2016, http://www.defense.tn/index.php/ar/2013-09-05-14-14-08/item/497-.

26 Author interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, February 2018.

27 For more information, please see this additional source: Mosaïque FM, “Découverte de camps de terroristes dans les hauteurs de Kasserine” [Discovery of terrorist camps in the heights of Kasserine], October 4, 2016, https://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/actualite-regional-tunisie/27996/decouverte-de-camps-de-terroristes-dans-les-hauteurs-de-kasserine .

28 Author interview with regional security expert, remote, November 2017.

29 Author database of media reports and Tunisian government press releases.

30 Author interview with Tunisian policy expert, Tunis, March 2015.

31 Author interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, January 2018.

32 Author communication with regional security expert, remote, March 2018.

33 Author interview with Tunisian security researcher, Tunis, January 2018.

34 “Amr riasiun eadad 120 lisanat 2015 mu’arakh fi 6 juayliat 2015 yataealaq bi ielan manateq eamalyat easkaryat wmanateq eamalyat easkaryat mughlaqah” [Presidential Order No. 120 of 2015, dated July 6, 2015, concerning the declaration of the areas of military operations and areas of closed military operations], July 6, 2015.

35 Author interview with retired Tunisian military officer, Tunis, November 2017.

36 Author database of media reports and Tunisian government press releases.

37 Author interview with regional security official, Tunis, March 2018.

38 Calculation based on author database of media reports and Tunisian government press releases.

39 Author communication and interviews with Tunisian security expert(s), Tunis, January, March, and April 2018.

40 Author communication with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, April 2018.

41 Author database of media reports and Tunisian government press releases.

42 Author database of media reports and Tunisian government press releases.

43 For more information, please see these additional sources: Mosaïque FM, “Les terroristes arrêtés originaires du Kef et de Jendouba” [Terrorists arrested from Kef and Jendouba] December 25, 2017, https://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/actualite-faits-divers/259914/les-terroristes-arretes-originaires-du-kef-et-de-jendouba; and Mosaïque FM, “Kef: opération de ratissage à la recherche de terrorists” [Kef: Raking operation looking for terrorists], August 6, 2017, https://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/actualite-regional-tunisie/183268/kef-operation-de-ratissage-a-la-recherche-de-terroristes.

44 Author database of media reports and Algerian Ministry of Defense Communiques.

45 Author interview with Tunisian policy expert, Tunis, August 2017.

46 Author interview with Tunisian security researcher, Tunis, January 2018; author communication with regional security expert, remote, March 2018.

47 Author interview with Tunisian security expert, Tunis, January 2018.

48 Author interview with regional security expert, Tunis, March 2018.

49 Author interview with regional security official, Tunis, March 2015; author interview with regional security expert, Tunis, March 2018.