Reviewing its response to the Algerian hostage crisis last month, the government admitted Thursday it doesn’t have enough Arabic-speaking diplomats or military attaches in Africa, making it nearly impossible to gather sufficient intelligence.
According to a 19-page interim report, the embassy in Algeria — the largest African country in terms of area — was staffed with only 13 Japanese nationals and none of them speak Arabic, one of the country’s two official languages.
A group of foreign military attaches in Algeria exchanged intelligence during the hostage crisis, but Japan was left out because it had no military attaches there, the report says.
The only Self-Defense Forces attaches currently stationed on the African continent are in Egypt and Sudan.
Radiopress Inc., a government-linked foundation that monitors foreign broadcasts and publications 24 hours a day, was not monitoring the local Arabic-language media reports at the time of the hostage crisis.
This forced Arab experts in the Foreign Ministry to gather open information in the Arabic language while engaging in other work.
“It’s necessary to expand and strengthen systems to station military attaches,” the report says. “We need to strengthen systems to gather open information in the Arabian language.”
The report was drawn up by a government panel under Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
During the crisis at a natural gas plant in the Sahara desert, 10 Japanese working for Yokohama-based JCG Corp. were killed.
Various conflicting reports came out during the crisis and the Algerian government kept a tight lid on its own information. This left officials in Tokyo in confusion, which prompted Suga to launch the review panel.
When the panel ended its meeting Thursday, Suga said the prime minister’s office should be reformed to eliminate ministry sectionalism and integrate the government’s “command functions.”
He also urged the government to draw up a hostage-crisis management manual for staff in the prime minister’s office.
The government will launch another study panel Friday, this one consisting of outside experts who will submit a report by early May.