Algeria: The Island Of Unhappiness In A Sea Of Chaos


May 30, 2014: More troops have been sent to guard the borders with Libya, Mali and Tunisia. These three countries have seen an increase in unrest or Islamic terrorist activity recently and it is feared that this will send more Islamic terrorists fleeing to Algeria for sanctuary. As inhospitable as Algeria is for Islamic terrorists the situations in Libya, Mali and Tunisia are becoming even more unpleasant. Algeria has always had problems with its land borders, which are 6,343 kilometers long and include frontiers with seven countries. Moreover most of these borderlands are in the thinly occupied desert. Before aircraft were invented it was impossible to secure these borders. But even with aircraft a tightly sealed border remains impossible. Libya, Mali and Tunisia comprise 52 percent of Algeria’s borders and the 1.376 kilometer long Mali border is particularly troublesome since it is all desert and very popular with smugglers and other outlaws from the regions to the south. The smugglers, not the Islamic terrorists crossing borders are becoming a major problem. The smugglers tend to move a lot of counterfeit stuff, to the point that nearly a third of the goods offered for sale in Algeria are counterfeits. Most of these come from East Asia (mainly China) as well as a number of Arab countries. These counterfeits are often defective and, in the cases of food, medicine and spare parts for vehicles or machinery, downright dangerous. The government has been ineffective at dealing with the counterfeits, in part because a lot of officials at the ports and major border crossings take bribes to allow in large shipments of counterfeit goods.

The government expects GDP to grow 4.5 percent this year, compared to three percent in 2013. That news is supposed to cheer up Algerians but it is not working. The blatant manner in which the government rigged the April 17th presidential election prompted a lot more anti-government sentiment. Many opposition groups formed a new coalition, the ANC (Alliance Nationale pour le Changement or National Alliance for Change), to agitate for much-needed reforms. But the ANC was quickly put together with high hopes and bleak prospects. That’s because ANC success is unlikely because this alliance contains groups split by ethnic, religious, political and economic beliefs. Thus it should be no surprise that the ANC is already paralyzed by internal disputes over exactly what to do.

The families that have ruled Algeria for half a century are focused on maintaining their political power and retaining their embezzled fortunes no matter what. Nevertheless the national mood has grown angrier and the trend of more and more protest demonstrations is apparently escalating. This sort of thing leads to injuries and deaths among the protestors which in turn leads to more people willing to consider armed resistance. But many Algerians still have bitter memories of the 1990s when a major uprising of Islamic conservative groups left over 200,000 dead and inflicted enormous economic damage. Fear of going through that again continues to damper enthusiasm for another revolution.

May 27, 2014:  In neighboring Tunisia Islamic terrorists unsuccessfully attacked the home of the Interior Minister in Kasserine. This is near Mount Chaambi, a remote area where Islamic terrorists have been active for years. The attack did kill four policemen before the attackers fled taking their casualties with them. The Interior Minister is the primary security official in the country and his efforts have been particularly successful against Islamic terrorists in the last year.

May 24, 2014: Just across the border in Tunisia an army armored vehicle hit a landmine, killing two soldiers and wounding three others.

May 21, 2014: Algeria has approved allowing foreign companies to explore for shale gas deposits. These lie inland in a band across central Algeria from the eastern to the western borders. Algeria is believed to have some of the largest shale gas deposits in the world. Thus Algeria has potential shale gas deposits that are the energy equivalent of over five billion barrels of oil which is nearly as large as U.S. deposits and more than five times what Israel has found. The foreign energy firms will confirm how much recoverable shale gas is actually there. Moreover the Algerian reserves are far from the nearest source of water (the Mediterranean) and billions of dollars would have to be spent on infrastructure (pipelines to get sea water to the wells and other pipelines to get the gas to the coast and liquefaction plants so the gas could be exported). All this requires that Algeria remain at peace for the next few decades, which may be the most difficult task of all considering the growing social discontent at the corruption and misrule.

May 19, 2014: The border with Libya was closed because a retired general there has organized a large force of fighters from the armed forces and tribal militias to go after the Islamic terrorist groups that have found sanctuary there. Algeria will reopen the border when things settle down. Most Algerian firms, including the state owned energy company, recalled workers they had in Libya and reduced or suspended Algerian operations in Libya. Algerian officials expect things to settle down sooner rather than later in Libya.

May 16, 2014: The government ordered its Libyan embassy shut down temporarily and most embassy personnel back to Algeria until things calm down in the Libyan capital.

May 13, 2014: Some 50 kilometers east of the capital soldiers ambushed some Islamic terrorists and killed two of them. So far this year the security forces have killed 39 Islamic terrorists and made dozens of terrorism related arrests.





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