CHEYENNE – Cheyenne played host to high-ranking military officials from the United States and Tunisia last week as they signed the annual strategic bilateral agreement between the two countries.
Previously the 30 defense officials would meet for the Joint Military Commission in either Washington, D.C., or Tunis, Tunisia. This year, thanks to the partnership between the Tunisian military and the Wyoming National Guard, the group shook things up a bit and spent the week at the Joint Forces Readiness Center, the Wyoming Guard’s headquarters.
Tunisia has been the Wyoming National Guard’s State Partnership Program country since 2004. The partnership program director in Wyoming, Maj. William Lindmier, has been working to bring the JMC here for the last two years.
“I think having this important meeting in Wyoming shows the strength of the partnership we have with Tunisia,” Lindmier said. “It was an honor to host the meeting and allow the participants from D.C. and Tunisia to experience a bit of Western hospitality.”
Among those in attendance were Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Michelle Lenihan, Tunisia’s Minister of Defense Abdelkarim Zbidi, U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Donald Blome, and the Tunisian Ambassador to the U.S. Fayçal Gouia.
Lenihan said she felt “Wyoming hit the jackpot in terms of state partnerships” due, in part, to the fact that the U.S. and Tunisia have a long history of partnering together. Tunisia was among the first countries to recognize our country’s independence following the Revolutionary War. The United States was the first to recognize Tunisia’s independence from France in 1956.
“I would like to give a round of thanks to the many, many people who made this 33rd Joint Military Commission a success, it will be hard to top it on the 34th but I’m looking forward to doing so next year,” Lenihan said at the conclusion of the event, April 30.
The bilateral agreement signed by Lenihan and Zbidi is one of two ministerial level strategic bilateral events where the Tunisian Minister of Defense attends in person with another country to determine annual military cooperation.
Zbidi, in his remarks translated from French by an interpreter, also recognized the long U.S.-Tunisia relationship and the relationship between Wyoming and Tunisia.
“I think we are unanimous when we say (the JMC) was a great success in many ways. There was an atmosphere of friendship, of brotherhood, of sisterhood and I think that put everyone at ease,” he said. “We were happy with the meeting because we were able to discuss such substantive issues related to our military activities, which we are developing even more year after year thanks to the work of the Joint Military Commission. I wish the greatest success for us with the plans we have been finalizing.”