Algeria: An Island Of Calm In An ISIL Storm


November 18, 2015: Despite all the Islamic terrorist activity in the Middle East and the rest of the world Algeria (and its neighbors Morocco and Tunisia) have been largely unaffected. Algerian officials attribute this to an internal security system that successfully detects Islamic terrorist activity and deals with it. While all three countries have problems with corruption and bad government these issues are less damaging here than elsewhere in the region. In addition Algeria has the advantage of a population that is particularly hostile to Islamic terrorism because of a bloody war with Islamic terrorists during the 1990s. During this conflict the Islamic terrorists tried, unsuccessfully, to coerce (via mass murder) reluctant civilians to support them. The peace deal that ended that war included an amnesty program that saw a lot of Islamic terrorists switch sides. There are still Islamic terrorists in Algeria but they have not been able to do much for over a decade. The intensity of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) violence elsewhere helps suppress support for Islamic terrorism inside Algeria and the police continue to get lots of tips about actual or suspected Islamic terrorist activity. So far so good, despite a recent purge in the security services because of a growing anti-corruption movement.

The Mali border continues to be a problem because the Islamic terrorists operating in Mali still try to move through Algeria, usually to smuggle drugs to the coast and thence to Europe. Doing this is a major source of income for Islamic terrorist groups who, when they have established a safe route, will also use it to move weapons and Islamic terrorists. Normally bribes would work to safely move drugs through but the Islamic terrorism angle means that few military or police officials will accept the money and the smugglers have to rely on skill and luck to get through. That often isn’t enough, as can be seen by the constant clashes on the Mali and Niger borders. Algeria has good relations with tribes in the south, especially Tuareg ones that have good connections with Tuareg across the border in Mali, Niger and Libya. This connection enables the security forces down there to keep watch on what is really going on in northern Mali. These Tuareg connections also enabled Algeria to help mediate the recent peace deal in northern Mali that ended the latest Tuareg insurrection. All that is left in northern Mali is the small groups of Islamic terrorists who now have fewer Tuareg they can depend on.

Meanwhile the neighbors are trying to contain the Islamic terrorist disease Libya is harboring. Tunisia is building a border wall along the Libyan frontier and imposing stricter screening at ports and airports. Egypt has done the same and sent thousands of additional troops to the border. The Algerian efforts have so far managed to protect Algeria from the Islamic terrorist threat from Libya. While Algeria helped arrange a workable peace deal in Mali it has been unable to do the same in Libya. Instead Algeria has managed to seal its borders sufficiently to keep most Libya based Islamic terrorists out. Algerian security forces have managed to hunt down and destroy those that do get in.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has run the country since 1999 and despite suffering a stroke in 2013 and being 78 years old is still in power. Apparently the close associates (family, friends, political allies) of Bouteflika have managed to hold tight the reins of power with or without a lot of help from the elderly and ailing president. This is all about mutual assistance among the few families (which were prominent in the 1960s rebellion against France) that have run the country for over half a century and have gotten rich in the process. This is a common pattern worldwide and especially in the Middle East. Everyone knows that corruption and bad government are the main cause of stagnant economies and general unrest but not enough of those in charge are willing to give up enough wealth or power to fix the problem. Thus the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings largely failed because too many people with power were not willing to give it up and had the means to eventually defeat the rebels and keep up the old ways. By weakening the counter-terror forces the government makes it more likely that there will be another revolution, most likely led by Islamic radicals. This is a cycle that keeps repeating.

Meanwhile the ruling families and Algerians in general are threatened by the declining oil production. Despite efforts to find more of it and revive older wells, production has declined 18 percent since its 2007 peak. Like most undeveloped countries with oil the rulers use as much of the oil wealth (and no more) to keep the population from rebelling. The current low (less than half what they were in 2013) oil prices makes that more difficult. For the ruling families oil income is a matter of survival (or exile and possible prosecution for corruption).

November 15, 2015: Across the Tunisian border near the mountain town of Kasserine Tunisian soldiers killed three Islamic terrorists while losing one of their own. Army and police patrols have been scouring the area since the March terror attack in the Tunisian capital that left 22 dead (most of them foreign tourists).  Patrols were recently intensified to find a group believed responsible for the recent beheading of a 16 year old boy the Islamic terrorists accused of cooperating with the police.

November 12, 2015: In the south (the Mali border) troops, acting on tips from locals, arrested four suspected Islamic terrorists (they were armed, not acting like smugglers and trying to sneak across the border) and seized a large cache of ammunition in two separate incidents.

November 8, 2015: In the north (90 kilometers south of the capital) troops encountered an armed Islamic terrorists and killed him. An AK-47, additional ammo and other equipment were seized.

October 27, 2015: Tunisia and Algeria signed a series of security and economic agreements. Both countries are, in addition to Morocco, the only nations in North Africa that are not cursed with a lot of Islamic terrorism. There is some Islamic terrorism in each country but it is relatively minor and not threatening the existence of the government and the economy.





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