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Algeria - DEFENSE

Algeria - National Security

BORN IN A BLOODY REVOLUTION from French colonial rule, Algeria became independent in 1962. The new nation was governed for more than twenty-five years by two military figures--Houari Boumediene from 1965 until 1978 and Chadli Benjedid from 1979 until early 1992. Although both presidents relied upon the armed forces for support, their regimes were by no means military dictatorships. The military, however, was heavily represented in the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale--FLN), the single party that controlled Algeria's socialist state until 1989. Nonetheless, under Boumediene and Benjedid civilian government institutions developed, and a multiparty parliamentary system emerged in 1989.

To avert a likely election victory by the Islamic party, the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut--FIS), the minister of defense led a coup in January 1992 that brought down the civilian government, which was soon replaced by a High Council of State dominated by the military. In the course of 1992 and 1993, the army and the police were called upon to deal with armed uprisings by those groups who saw the military takeover as cheating the Islamic movement of its popular mandate. A crackdown against officials and organs of the FIS failed to bring an end to the violence, which resulted in 600 deaths among the security forces in the twelve months after the coup. Hundreds of civilians, including Islamic demonstrators and some foreigners, were also killed. The normal processes of government were paralyzed by the tense internal situation, and the army struggled to contain the uprising.

Security problems beyond the national borders, which had in the past motivated the government, aided by the Soviet Union, to buildup the military, had become less pressing by the early 1990s. Algeria's support for a nationalist insurgency in the Western Sahara had collided with Morocco's ambition to absorb the territory, but by 1993 the conflict seemed to be winding down. A cooperation treaty in 1989 among the Maghrib states, incorporating security clauses intended to prevent future military confrontation, reflected the more pacific climate prevailing in the region.

Algeria has a large and reasonably well-equipped military to counter foreign and domestic threats. The People's National Army (Armée Nationale Populaire--ANP) include ground forces, an air force, navy, and an air defense command. The National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale), a paramilitary body, is used mainly as a police force in rural areas. The army, in the process of being reorganized into four divisions in 1993, also has numerous independent brigades and battalions. Its antecedents were the conventional military units formed in Morocco and Tunisia during the War of Independence from France. In 1993 the air force was equipped with about 193 combat aircraft and fifty-eight armed helicopters. The navy consisted of a small fleet of frigates, corvettes, and missile craft, together with two modern submarines. Except for brief clashes with Morocco in 1976, the armed forces have not been involved in hostilities against a foreign power. Their combat capabilities in defense of the country has thus remained untested.

The arms and equipment initially supplied by the Soviet Union were of good quality, but some of the matériel had been in inventory for up to two decades. Earlier shipments were later supplemented by more modern tanks, armored vehicles, and missile launchers. Because of economic dislocation and a scarcity of foreign exchange, Algeria in the early 1990s postponed the acquisition of more modern equipment. Instead, it assigned priority to training and effective maintenance of existing weapons. More than half the army's personnel strength consisted of conscripts, some of whom were detailed to economic infrastructure projects after basic training. However, since Chadli Benjedid's introduction of market-oriented economic reforms in the late 1980s, the army has curtailed its involvement in construction, agricultural, and manufacturing activities.


The Algerian leadership's perceptions of the outside world-- including its views on what constituted a threat to national security--have historically been strongly influenced by ideology. The War of Independence contributed to a set of beliefs that emphasized Algeria's identification with the newly independent, less-developed countries. Dividing the globe into the rich industrial nations of the North and the poor, former colonies of the South, Algerian leaders asserted their strong opposition to what they saw as a world infected by imperialism, Zionism, colonialism, and economic domination by the former colonial powers. By definition, these attitudes implied a measure of suspicion and hostility toward the capitalist states of Europe and North America, and sympathy for liberation movements whose struggles mirrored Algeria's own.

By the early 1990s, ideology was no longer the guiding principle of Algeria's national security outlook. The views shaped by the War of Independence were tempered by more than two decades of experience as a sovereign state as well as by President Benjedid's more cautious, pragmatic style. Under him Algeria adopted an active posture as a mediator of disputes between Western nations and the more radical states of the Arab world. At the same time, Algerian external security objectives narrowed. The goals of reducing differences with its neighbors, the Maghrib countries of North Africa, and especially of settling political and economic disputes with the bordering states of Morocco and Libya, predominated.

Algeria - Security Interests Outside the Maghrib

Under Ahmed Ben Bella, independent Algeria's first president, the government actively supported a host of anticolonial struggles throughout Africa. Algeria became a leading contributor to the African Liberation Committee of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was designed to coordinate and aid African liberation movements. In 1963 the government provided training to 1,000 guerrillas from Mozambique, South Africa, and Angola. More controversially, Ben Bella's government also sponsored efforts to overthrow independent African governments that were considered to be reactionary or too closely linked to former colonial powers. Notably, during this time the Algerians supported insurgencies against the governments of newly independent Congo (former Belgian Congo, present-day Zaire), Niger, and Morocco. Ben Bella's activism, however, was ineffectual in weakening the opponents at which it was aimed. Critics charged that his stance was merely symbolic, designed to enhance the president's prestige among the "radical" bloc of African and Asian states and, by extension, to bolster his political position within Algeria.

After Ben Bella's overthrow in 1965, the Boumediene government turned its attention to domestic development issues and limited its direct involvement in destabilizing foreign governments. As a matter of principle, however, the new regime soon started assisting a number of revolutionary groups and liberation movements and allowed their representatives to operate in Algiers. These groups included liberation movements opposed to the regimes in Portuguese Africa, Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), South Africa, the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), Israel, and others. International terrorists associated with Italy's Red Brigade, the Federal Republic of Germany's (West Germany) Baader-Meinhof Gang, and the Black Panthers, composed of radical American blacks, were granted sanctuary and support. Aircraft hijackers were allowed to land in Algeria and were often granted asylum until, under international pressure, Boumediene abandoned the practice in 1978.

An important element of Algerian security policy has been the leadership's attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinian nationalists--attitudes that were underscored by Algeria's military contributions during the June 1967 and October 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. Immediately after the 1967 conflict, the Algerians sent more than fifty aircraft to Egypt to replace some of those lost in the war. Algeria also reportedly sent small contingents of infantry and artillery to reinforce the Egyptians. Algeria's contribution to the October 1973 War consisted of a number of air force units that joined Egyptian forces on the Suez front and two medical teams that were dispatched to the Syrian front. Although the direct involvement of Algerian forces in these conflicts was minimal, Algeria apparently drew important lessons from Arab shortcomings against Israeli military power. Soon after the Arab defeat in 1967, Boumediene inaugurated conscription. Later, the Arabs' initial successes in the 1973 war using modern Soviet-supplied antiaircraft and antitank missiles were believed to have influenced Boumediene's decision to upgrade his armed forces with large purchases of sophisticated Soviet weaponry.

Although several liberation movements were still permitted to maintain offices in Algeria after Benjedid came to power in 1979, the government was no longer a major sanctuary for terrorist groups operating abroad. It drew a distinction between terrorism, which it condemned, and violence on the part of national liberation movements, which it considered possibly legitimate. Algeria, however, has refused to sign international agreements intended to counter acts of terrorism. In addition, a representative of the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal Organization was allowed to remain in Algiers despite a number of attacks against Arab and Western targets and against its Palestinian opponents in Algeria. Representatives of two other terrorist groups--the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Liberation Front--appeared on national television to rally popular support for Iraq after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Algeria continued to back the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), whose efforts against Israel had long been viewed by Algerians as similar to the struggle against the French by their own revolutionaries. Although Algeria, like other Arab countries, was unable (or unwilling) to help the PLO resist the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Benjedid's government allowed between 1,000 and 2,000 of the guerrillas evacuated from Beirut to establish themselves in military camps in Algeria. Algeria focused its main efforts on mediating among various Palestinian factions rather than supporting a resumption of PLO military activity.

Algeria - Security Problems with Neighboring States

In his efforts to shape a more pragmatic foreign policy, Benjedid succeeded in moderating the stresses in the country's relationships with the West. Concurrently, Algeria's concerns shifted to improving regional stability, which had been disturbed by festering disputes with Morocco and Libya. Reflective of improving relationships was the formation in February 1989 of the Union of the Arab Maghrib (Union du Maghreb Arabe--UMA), with Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia as members. The primary goal of the UMA was improved economic cohesion, but the treaty also contained important security clauses. The signatories affirmed that any aggression against one member would be considered as aggression against the other member states. In an apparent allusion to the Western Sahara conflict, member states pledged not to permit any activity or organization on their territory that could endanger the security or territorial integrity of another member state.

Relations between Algeria and Morocco had long been characterized by rivalry and occasional hostility. Immediately after Algerian independence, Morocco laid claim to stretches of southern and western Algeria that had been under Moroccan sovereignty before the French gained control over the area in the nineteenth century. In a series of sharp engagements in the disputed territory in October 1963, the professional Moroccan army consistently outperformed Algerian regulars and local guerrillas. Although OAU-sponsored mediation ended the fighting, the success of the Moroccans demonstrated the potential threat to Algerian security in the event of a more serious dispute.

In addition to fighting over borders, the two countries each sought primacy in the Maghrib. Their claims were rooted in part in ideology: Morocco's claim to regional leadership derived from its centuries-old national identity, whereas Algeria's stemmed from the prestige of winning its War of Independence. The ideological differences between the new socialist republic and the ancient kingdom were sharpened when, almost immediately after independence, Ben Bella began to trumpet his country's socialistrevolutionary doctrines and its opposition to conservative governments such as Morocco's. Relations improved after Boumediene came to power and as both countries concentrated on their domestic problems. In 1972 a treaty was signed defining the international border between them. The Moroccan government, however, deferred its official ratification of the treaty. Following the mending of differences over the Western Sahara question, Morocco's King Hassan II finally ratified the border treaty in May 1989.

The dispute over the Western Sahara had its origins in 1974 when Morocco began maneuvering to annex the territory, which was then under Spanish control and known as the Spanish Sahara. A series of Moroccan diplomatic initiatives--climaxed by a march of 350,000 Moroccans across the territory's northern border-- resulted in a treaty by which Spain turned over the northern twothirds of the Western Sahara to Moroccan administration and the rest to Mauritania. By mid1975 the Algerians were giving supplies, vehicles, and light arms to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Río de Oro (Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el Hamra y Río de Oro--Polisario). Polisario was the strongest of several indigenous national liberation movements active in the Western Sahara. Algerian authorities established refugee camps in the Tindouf area to house large numbers of Saharans, popularly known as Sahrawis, who abandoned the territory after the Moroccan takeover. Algeria thus became the principal foreign supporter of the Polisario in its long-running desert war to oppose Moroccan control of the disputed area.

Algeria gradually acquired a quantitative military superiority over Morocco with the introduction of large amounts of modern weaponry, mainly from the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the Algerians avoided direct confrontation with the more experienced Moroccan troops. In January 1976, however, the Moroccans badly defeated two battalions of Algerian troops and took prisoners in clashes inside the Western Sahara. After that time, Algerian regulars did not venture into the Western Sahara despite Moroccan claims to the contrary. For their part, the Moroccans refrained from pursuing troops onto Algerian territory.

Initially, fighting in the Western Sahara featured attacks by the Polisario's light mobile forces against isolated Moroccan outposts. By 1982, however, the struggle had shifted in Morocco's favor. Morocco adopted a strategy of constructing fortified sand walls, mined and equipped with electronic warning systems. Enclosing progressively larger areas of the Sahara, Morocco was able to undercut Polisario's ability to conduct hit-and-run attacks. The Moroccan military dominated the battlefield, effectively coordinating its modern ground and air firepower in spite of Algeria's deliveries of increasingly sophisticated arms to the Polisario guerrillas.

The success of Morocco's military strategy was one factor in the rapprochement between the two nations in 1988, following a twelve-year hiatus in diplomatic relations precipitated by Algeria's recognition of the Polisario government. Although Polisario was able to mount an offensive against the sand wall in late 1989, breaking a truce that had held for nearly a year, Algeria--preoccupied by its own internal security problems--was no longer willing to devote enough arms and support to keep the independence movement alive. Algeria still provided refuge on its territory for about 10,000 guerrillas, but by the close of 1992 Polisario's military defeats had nearly ended the insurgency.

Algeria's resumption of diplomatic relations with Morocco, accompanied by the opening of borders and a number of joint economic initiatives, eased the security situation on its western flank. Morocco's acceptance of the United Nations (UN) peace plan for the Western Sahara and the conclusion of the UMA treaty in 1989 further helped to abate remaining tensions.

Whereas Morocco had long been viewed as a potential threat, Muammar al Qadhafi's Libya was regarded as somewhat more friendly. The Algerian-Libyan security relationship was based on a common antipathy for the Western-dominated economic order and deep hostility toward Israel. This relationship, however, suffered several setbacks during the 1980s. In 1984 Morocco and Libya announced that they had secretly negotiated an alliance. Although the alliance's effect was short-lived, Algeria interpreted the agreement as upsetting the strategic balance in the Maghrib. Libya's unilateral annexation of a section of neighboring Chad and its military intervention in Chad hardened Algerian attitudes toward Libya, as did the suspicion that Libya was linked to unrest instigated by Islamist (also seen as fundamentalist) groups in Algeria. Libya's subsequent participation in the UMA, however, appeared to lay a foundation for more stable relationships with Algeria and the other states of the region.

Algeria - Strategic Perspectives

Among Algeria's neighbors, only Morocco and Libya could be viewed as potential military rivals. The active personnel strength of Morocco's armed forces was greater than the strength of Algeria's force, but its army was inferior in terms of armored vehicles and artillery. The Moroccan combat air force of French and United States fighter aircraft was smaller than the Sovietequipped Algerian air force. Libya's equipment inventory--armor, artillery, and combat aircraft--was greater than either Morocco's or Algeria's, but its ground forces were much smaller. The Libyan navy was somewhat larger than that of Algeria.

Unusual geographic features present Algeria's military leadership with special challenges in protecting the security of the country's borders. In 1993 most of the population of approximately 27.4 million in 1993 was concentrated within 100 kilometers of the coast, with the density diminishing rapidly from north to south. The vast, unpopulated stretches of the Sahara Desert to the south would be difficult to defend against a strong and determined adversary. Algeria's western flank south of the Atlas Mountains would be especially vulnerable to a Moroccan attack, inasmuch as Moroccan forces would benefit from shorter communication and supply lines. Between Béchar and Tindouf, the strategic highway that roughly follows the Moroccan border could easily be severed, thereby breaking Algeria's only ground link to the mineral-rich Tindouf area and its connections with Western Sahara and Mauritania. In the northwest, however, the Atlas Mountains would act as a barrier discouraging invasion of the more populous parts of either country by the other.

The problems facing Algeria in the west are duplicated in the southeast, where the lengthy border area with Libya is isolated from the remainder of the country. A tenuous link to the region is provided by a road reaching the border town of Edjeleh, but it would be difficult to mount a defense of this remote area in the face of Libya's superiority in combat aircraft and armor.

In the far south, a trans-Saharan route branches before the border, connecting Algeria to Mali and to Niger. Fortunately, in view of the distances involved and the weak transport links, Algeria faces no serious threat from either country. Algerian border police have expelled nomadic Tuareg and black Africans who were refugees from the Sahel drought or engaged in black-market trading. Demarcation agreements were concluded with Mali and Niger in 1983.

Tunisia, with its small armed forces, has never presented a security problem for Algeria. A twenty-year disagreement over the border delineation with Tunisia was settled in 1983. Algeria and Tunisia have generally united when faced with Libyan bellicosity. When in 1985 Tunisia came under pressure from Libya in the form of border troop movements and violations of Tunisian air space, Algeria supported Tunisia by moving its troops to the border area. Algeria also signed a border agreement with Mauritania in 1985, after three years of negotiation.


During the 1960s and 1970s, Ben Bella and Boumediene were primarily concerned with threats to their leadership from other figures who had been prominent in the struggle of the FLN against the French colonial presence. During the War of Independence, the FLN had never been a truly unified force; instead, it operated as a coalition of groups based on different ideological, personality, or ethnoregional considerations. As a result, first Ben Bella and then Boumediene were opposed by a range of individuals with strong revolutionary credentials. When Boumediene overthrew Ben Bella and assumed power in 1965, his tight grip on the military enabled him to dominate the opposition elements. After the abortive attempt in late 1967 by armed forces chief of staff Taher Zbiri to depose him, Boumediene's control appeared to be complete, and the opposition was forced either underground or abroad.

To maintain his hold on power, Boumediene relied heavily on the security forces--particularly the intelligence service of the ANP known as Military Security (Sécurité Militaire), which maintained strict surveillance within and beyond the national boundaries of people whose ideologies were considered questionable. All political organizations outside the FLN were considered illegal because the FLN was defined as representing all legitimate political tendencies. Open criticism of the regime was not permitted, and violators were subject to arrest and severe punishment. The murders in Europe of two former FLN leaders, Belkacem Krim and Mohamed Khider, were blamed on Algerian security forces. Many suspected that deaths of other well-known FLN personalities were linked to vengeance exacted through the Sécurité Militaire.

Benjedid, having been designated the FLN nominee for president at an FLN party congress in 1979, had greater legitimacy than his predecessors because of the wide support he enjoyed from fellow military officers. Reinforcing his position over time, he shunted his rivals and potential rivals into minor positions or out of the ruling apparatus altogether. By the mid1980s , the government felt confident enough to release from prison or house arrest all political prisoners including Ben Bella, in detention at the time Benjedid assumed office. Amnesties were also granted to those, among them Zbiri, who had been involved in the plots against Boumediene. Former FLN leaders living abroad were invited to return home.

Algeria - Islamic Opposition

By the early 1980s, the Islamist movement provided a greater rallying point for opposition elements than did secular leftists. Although Islam was identified with the nationalist struggle against the French, the Algerian government had controlled its practice since independence through the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Superior Islamic Council. The council maintained "official" mosques and paid the salaries of imams (religious leaders). Beginning in 1979, however, concurrent with the religious revolution that toppled the government of Iran, large numbers of young people began to congregate at mosques that operated beyond the control of the authorities. At prayer meetings, imams not paid by the government preached in favor of a more egalitarian society, against the arrogance of the rich, and for an end to corrupt practices in government, business, and religion.

In a pattern of escalating violence during the early 1980s, religious extremists became increasingly active, assaulting women in Western-style dress, questioning the legitimacy of the "Marxist" Algerian government, and calling for an Islamic republic that would use the Quran as its constitution. After a brutal confrontation between Marxist and Islamist demonstrators at the University of Algiers in November 1982, the authorities rounded up and prosecuted for subversion students, imams, and intellectuals linked with the Algerian Islamic Movement headed by Mustapha Bouyali. Bouyali himself remained at large, forming a guerrilla band that was involved in a number of clashes with security forces. He was killed in early 1987, and his group was disbanded.

Serious demonstrations to protest commodity shortages and high prices broke out in Algiers, Oran, and other cities in October 1988. When the police proved unable to curb the outbreak, troops supported by armored vehicles assumed responsibility for security. Large demonstrations were staged by Islamist groups inspired by the intifada, the uprising of Palestinians against Israeli rule on the West Bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza Strip. It was estimated that more than 500 people were killed after ill-trained soldiers used automatic weapons against the demonstrators. More than 3,500 demonstrators were arrested, but most were released without charges before year's end. Allegations of arbitrary arrest, unfair trials, mistreatment, and torture compounded public anger against the government.

When Benjedid's reforms opened political life to wider public participation, the FIS emerged in 1989 as the primary instrument of the Islamic movement. The FIS achieved rapid success in local elections, especially in the working-class districts of Algiers and other cities. The FIS leaders, determined to remain a legitimate political party, did not acknowledge links with Islamist groups dedicated to violence. The party was banned in March 1992, however, and thousands of its officials and supporters were arrested under the state of emergency. After that time, the FIS appeared to have shifted to a policy of armed response, declaring that the "state violence" of the authorities justified recourse to "means other than dialogue." (Yared; NYT8- 20-92; EIU 3/92))

Extremist branches of the Islamist movement engaged openly in violence against government targets after the cancellation of the elections. One of the most radical branches, Al Takfir wal Hijra (Repentance and Holy Flight), originally consisted of about 500 Algerian veterans of service in mujahidin (literally "holy warriors" or freedom fighters) forces in Afghanistan. Their acts of urban terrorism often were aimed against police and military posts in order to gather weapons and to demonstrate the government's inability to maintain control.

After the government's crackdown against the FIS in 1992, various other activist Islamist organizations sprang up, with units operating in groups of two to five, without apparent unified command. These groups, difficult to distinguish from each other, targeted police posts, courthouses and other public buildings, and selected public figures. In some cases, assassination targets were announced in advance.

Officials did not ascribe the June 1992 assassination of the chairman of the High Council of State, Mohamed Boudiaf, to terrorist groups, although Islamic activists welcomed the action. The assassin, a junior officer assigned to presidential security, was described as "motivated by religious convictions."

The government interned at least 9,000 persons, many of them elected FIS members of assemblies at the province (wilaya; pl., wilayat) and commune levels, at camps in the Sahara during the spring of 1992. Many of the urban terrorists waged guerrilla warfare from refuges in the mountainous areas adjacent to large cities. Large-scale gendarmerie actions hunted them down. Although the government claimed it had neutralized most terrorist groups, more rigorous measures were imposed in December 1992. These measures included a major sweep by 30,000 army and police personnel directed at every entity connected with the FIS, together with a strict curfew in Algiers and other localities.

After the banning of the FIS in Algeria, many FIS leaders escaped to France, where they reportedly continued to recruit new fighters and collect funds and supplies to pursue the armed struggle in Algeria. The FIS, as a foreign political party, was prohibited from operating on French soil; however, it was represented by the Algerian Brotherhood in France set up by Algerian students. Previously, the Movement for Democracy in Algeria of former President Ben Bella had used intimidation and violence in seeking the support of Algerians resident in France, but such intimidation was no longer considered necessary.

Algeria - Berber Separatism

The Berbers, who constitute about one-fifth of the Algerian population, have resisted foreign influences since ancient times. They fought against the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Ottoman Turks, and the French after their 1830 occupation of Algeria. In the fighting between 1954 and 1962 against France, Berber men from the Kabylie region participated in larger numbers than their share of the population warranted.

Since independence the Berbers have maintained a strong ethnic consciousness and a determination to preserve their distinctive cultural identity and language. They have particularly objected to efforts to force them to use Arabic; they regard these efforts as a form of Arab imperialism. Except for a handful of individuals, they have not been identified with the Islamist movement. In common with most other Algerians, they are Sunni Muslims of the Maliki legal school. In 1980 Berber students, protesting that their culture was being suppressed by the government's arabization policies, launched mass demonstrations and a general strike. In the wake of riots at Tizi Ouzou that resulted in a number of deaths and injuries, the government agreed to the teaching of the Berber language as opposed to classical Arabic at certain universities and promised to respect Berber culture. Nevertheless, ten years later, in 1990, the Berbers were again forced to rally in large numbers to protest a new language law requiring total use of Arabic by 1997.

The Berber party, the Front of Socialist Forces (Front des Forces Socialistes--FFS), gained twenty-five of the 231 contested seats in the first round of the legislative elections of December 1991, all of these in the Kabylie region. The FFS leadership did not approve of the military's cancellation of the second stage of the elections. Although strongly rejecting the FIS's demand that Islamic law be extended to all facets of life, the FFS expressed confidence that it could prevail against Islamist pressure.


The People's National Army (Armée Nationale Populaire--ANP, known until 1962 as the Army of National Liberation--Armée de Libération Nationale--ALN) stems from a long military tradition in Algerian national life. Throughout their history, the peoples of North Africa have demonstrated a decided martial prowess, particularly when called upon to defend their independence. Berber tribesmen with a warlike reputation resisted the spread of Carthaginian and Roman colonization before the Christian era, and they struggled for more than a generation against the seventhcentury Arab invaders who spread Islam to North Africa by military conquests mounted as jihads, or holy wars.

Tension, crisis, resistance, dissidence, and revolution have characterized Algeria's development, at times pitting Berbers against Arabs and during other periods uniting them in opposition to a common enemy. The people of the central Maghrib have also, on occasion, fought on the side of their foreign rulers; during the 132 years of colonial domination, the French augmented their pacification forces with Algerian recruits. During World War I, about 173,000 Algerians conscripted into service with the French army fought with valor against the Germans; 25,000 of the Algerians were killed in combat. Algeria also supplied France with soldiers in World War II, providing the Free French with men in the Italian campaign. The experience contributed to a growing dissatisfaction with the French presence in Algeria that in 1954 erupted in the eight-year struggle for independence.

At a meeting in 1954, the revolutionary leaders laid down the structure of the ALN. The six military regions, known at that time as wilayat, were subdivided into zones, areas, and sectors. Tactical units were assigned, commanders appointed, and a system of military ranks adopted; the designation of colonel was fixed as the highest officer grade.

In 1957 a coordinated campaign of strikes and violence in the cities triggered a brutally effective counterinsurgency campaign by the French that broke down FLN and ALN organizations inside Algeria, particularly in urban areas. The military and civilian revolutionary leadership took sanctuary in Tunisia and Morocco, leaving the "internal ALN"--composed of guerrillas that operated under autonomous local commanders--to continue the fight against the French. Largely unassisted by the revolutionaries outside Algeria, these internal forces--with a strong Berber component-- suffered heavily. They were never completely destroyed, however, and their resistance succeeded in demoralizing the French, whose forces numbered 500,000 at their peak.

The regular ALN units, formed in Tunisia and Morocco with the tacit approval of the host countries, established bases near the Algeria border. Unlike the internal forces, the "external" ALN had a conventional organization and received training and modern equipment from sympathetic foreign sources. Although estimates of its size varied, a strength of 35,000 was claimed in 1960. Increasingly effective French measures to seal the borders hampered efforts to convey arms and supplies to the internal forces.

The external ALN was decisively defeated whenever it engaged the French directly. Nevertheless, it emerged as a central element among revolutionary forces, especially after the FLN leadership appointed Colonel Boumediene as ALN chief of staff in early 1960. Well before independence, regional factionalism and fierce personal rivalries raged among FLN internal and external military leaders and civilian politicians. Only six days before Algeria's formal independence on July 5, 1962, the civilian political faction controlling the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (Gouvernement Provisoire de la République Algérienne--GPRA) dismissed Boumediene and the rest of the general staff. Boumediene rejected their authority and instead supported the candidacy of Ben Bella, one of the "historic chiefs" of the War of Independence, against the GPRA. Boumediene led contingents of the external ALN and friendly guerrillas eastward to Algiers, overcoming resistance from other internal guerrilla leaders who felt that they had earned the right to shape the course of the revolution. Joining Ben Bella in the capital, Boumediene became minister of defense in the government formed in September 1962.

Algeria - The Military and Boumediene

The failure of the GPRA to assert its supremacy over the external army's general staff constituted a turning point in Algerian military development. Thereafter, the political power of the ANP was firmly established. Several groups--mostly former internal leaders and politically motivated enemies of Boumediene- -sought to preserve the Algerian armed forces' guerrilla traditions; they strongly opposed the creation of a strong, centralized military power under Boumediene's control. By contrast, according to Boumediene's philosophy, the security of a modern state required a well-equipped armed force trained and organized along conventional lines. The brief border war with Morocco in 1976, in which the conventional Moroccan army proved to be superior to the ANP, underscored the need to convert the ANP into a unified modern army.

The external forces were better organized, equipped, and trained and were not fractured by local wilaya loyalties as were the internal forces in the War of Independence. The internal guerrillas, who may have numbered no more than 25,000 at any one time, had, however, borne the brunt of the warfare. In addition, about 75,000 part-time irregulars carried out sabotage, acted as guides, supplied intelligence, and often took part in engagements near their own homes.

Boumediene vigorously undertook to reduce, consolidate, reorganize, and train the ANP's various elements. He purged most of the headstrong former guerrilla commanders. He retained professionals of the external army, as well as about 250 officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) with experience in the French army. The new ANP absorbed about 10,000 members of the internal guerrilla units; Boumediene discharged the rest, mostly Berbers. (OT 313; World Armies 10))

In spite of his association with Boumediene, Ben Bella moved to gain control of the army in a series of efforts aimed at reducing the power of the defense minister. The new constitution of 1963 assigned the powers of commander in chief to Ben Bella as head of state. Three weeks later, while Boumediene was in Moscow seeking arms, Ben Bella designated former wilaya leader Colonel Taher Zbiri as military chief of staff, further weakening the position of the minister of defense and the ANP. Boumediene met these threats by forging alliances with FLN leaders previously identified as his rivals. The coup d'état of June 19, 1965, which brought Boumediene to power, demonstrated his success in that Zbiri personally arrested Ben Bella. )

Closely identified with the Boumediene government after the 1965 coup, the ANP exercised its influence through the country's supreme governing body, the Council of the Revolution. Of the council's twenty-six original members, twenty-two were military men with wartime or postwar service; twelve served at the time on the ANP general staff or as commanders of military regions.

In response to a failed coup attempt by chief of staff Zbiri at the end of 1967, Boumediene dissolved the general staff and solidified his control over the ANP by assuming personally many staff responsibilities. He excluded ANP leadership from day-to- day policy making but remained close to the army commanders whose support he needed to maintain political control.

Boumediene never considered himself a military professional, and he and his top aides never appeared publicly in uniform. He asserted that as a socialist state Algeria was not the instrument of a military regime or an officer caste. Nonetheless, the ANP was the best-organized and best-managed institution in the country, and many technically competent and experienced military personnel entered ministries and parastatal (partly governmentowned and partly privately owned) corporations as part of the national economic elite.

Military management also undertook local civic-action and economic development projects. This role gave regional military commanders powers of patronage that further boosted their political influence. The regional commanders became more influential in local affairs than the governors of wilayat, who served under the Ministry of Interior, Local Communities, and Tourism (hereafter Ministry of Interior). The wilayat governors also frequently had military backgrounds.

After Boumediene was incapacitated by a fatal illness in late 1978, the Council of the Revolution assumed day-to-day political power on an interim basis. Only eight members of the council remained from the original twenty-six. Five were colonels; they included Chadli Benjedid, who assumed responsibility for national defense matters. The nation's senior military officer, Benjedid was viewed as the ANP's candidate to replace Boumediene. He became president when the FLN Party Congress became deadlocked over two more prominent candidates.

Benjedid's Council of Ministers included strong ANP representation. Military men consistently made up half the membership of the FLN Political Bureau. Indeed, one observer described the FLN as a "screen" behind which the military exercised its influence as the real foundation of the regime. Many officers served in civilian posts; many observers believed, however, that their involvement in national decision making reflected Benjedid's confidence in their abilities and loyalty rather than an effort to impose direct military control.

The ANP's favorable image, based on its role in the War of Independence and in the creation of the postwar Algerian state, was badly tarnished by the ruthless way in which it suppressed the strikes and riots of "Black October" 1988. Troops deployed in the center of Algiers and other cities fired indiscriminately, with little regard for civilian casualties. Reacting to criticisms by human rights activists at home and abroad, Benjedid purged a number of military commanders and appointed younger, more professional officers with personal loyalty to him. Soon thereafter, all senior army officers resigned from the FLN Central Committee so as formally, if not actually, to distance themselves from civilian politics.

As the threat of Islamic militancy became more acute, the power of the army reemerged as the primary bulwark against religiously inspired violence. The role of the armed forces was legitimated by a four-month state of emergency declared after the May-June 1991 rioting. The military high command felt that the government's political liberalization measures and its lax attitude toward the Islamic threat were mistaken. When the first round of national election results of December 26, 1991, resulted in an overwhelming FIS victory, Benjedid was forced to resign as president. A five-member High Council of State soon assumed presidential powers. The council's only military representative was the minister of defense, Major General Khaled Nezzar, but the military exerted strong influence on the interim government. Troops and armored vehicles were deployed in the cities, military checkpoints were set up, and gatherings at mosques for political purposes were prohibited. The regime declared a one-year state of emergency, banned the FIS, and arrested thousands of its supporters. Convinced that the stability of the nation was at stake, the army clearly intended to crush the FIS. The militants' resort to terrorist attacks and the June 1992 assassination of Boudiaf, one of the original founders of the group that became the FLN, hardened the attitude of the military. Nezzar declared that the army would "conduct an implacable war until the total eradication of armed Islamic extremists who have soiled their hands with the blood of the defenders of order [is achieved]."

As 1992 drew to a close, the suppression of the Islamic political movement by the ANP and police appeared to be outwardly effective, although individual acts of violence continued. In spite of some desertions and arms thefts by sympathizers in the military, senior commanders asserted that the cohesion of the army was unaffected. The military leaders maintained that they had deemed it necessary to intervene only to head off an anarchic situation. Although the armed forces could have assumed power directly during the turmoil of 1992, they refrained from doing so. They continued to profess their intention of returning to their basic mission of providing for the defense and territorial integrity of the nation.


The armed forces consist of four branches: the army, the navy, the air force, and air defense. They are augmented by the National Gendarmerie, which comes under the Ministry of Interior. According to The Military Balance, 1993-1994, the total strength of the active armed forces in late 1993 was 121,700, including the army, 105,000; the navy, 6,700; and the air force, 10,000. Air defense manning levels are not known but one source estimates them as 4,000, included within the air force complement. The number of reserves is listed at 150,000, but their state of readiness is not known.

Under the constitution, the president is supreme commander of all the armed forces and is responsible for national defense. When Boumediene deposed Ben Bella in 1965, he eliminated the national defense portfolio to reinforce his own control over the ANP. In July 1990, Benjedid revived the position, appointing Nezzar to head the ministry. Nezzar had been chief of staff since he replaced Major General Abdallah Belhouchet in 1988. Belhouchet, who until that time had been considered the most important military figure after Benjedid, was dismissed as part of the wholesale removal of senior officers after the 1988 riots. After Benjedid's resignation as president in early 1992 and Nezzar's appointment as sole military representative on the High Council of State, the interim governing body, Nezzar was seen as the strong man of the regime.

Under the constitution, the head of state can turn for advice on national security matters to the High Security Council, which along with the Council of Ministers, is required to give its consent to the declaration of a state of emergency in the event the country faces imminent danger to its institutions, its independence, or its territorial integrity. The High Security Council must also be heard prior to a declaration of war by the president. The security council's members include the prime minister, the minister of national defense, the chief of staff of the armed forces, the minister of interior (an army officer), and the minister of justice. Upon Benjedid's resignation, the High Security Council assembled to cancel the second round of the general election and created the High Council of State to exercise interim presidential powers.

During the 1980s, Benjedid took a number of measures to reorganize the military high command so as to enhance the ANP's efficiency and military effectiveness. In 1984, after promoting eight colonels to become the first generals in independent Algeria, Benjedid announced the establishment of an ANP general staff. Previously, the armed forces had relied on the secretary general of the Ministry of National Defense to coordinate staff activities. The previous secretary general of the ministry, Major General Mustafa Benloucif, was named the first chief of staff. Benloucif had risen quickly in the ANP and was also an alternate member of the FLN Political Bureau. However, he was dismissed in 1986 without explanation; in 1992 the regime announced that Benloucif would be tried for corruption and the embezzlement of US$11 million, which had been transferred to European accounts.

The general staff had responsibility for operational planning for the integrated armed forces, budgeting, information and communications, logistics and administrative support, mobilization, and recruiting. It was not, however, part of the regular chain of command. In practice, the armed forces chief of staff dealt directly with the chiefs of the service branches and with the commanders of the six military regions. Along with Nezzar, the senior hierarchy of the armed forces included the chief of staff, Abdelmalek Guénaizia; the commander of the National Gendarmerie, Abbas Ghezaiel; the chief of military security, Mohamed Médiène; and the inspector general of the land forces, Tayeb Derradji. Minister of Interior Larbi Belkheir, a major general who had been considered part of the collective military leadership, was replaced by a civilian minister after Boudiaf's assassination in mid-1992 and was no longer on active service.

Algeria - Army

The army's personnel strength of 105,000 in late 1993 included 65,000 conscripts. The army's size nearly doubled after 1978, largely to prepare for possible hostilities with Morocco over the Western Sahara. After reaching a manpower strength of 120,000 in 1992 to deal with the pressures of domestic disturbances, financial considerations required a cutback in personnel. The army commander appointed in the spring of 1992 was Major General Khelifa Rahim, who also served as deputy chief of staff of the armed forces.

Territorially, Algeria is divided into six numbered military regions, each with headquarters located in a principal city or town. This system of territorial organization, adopted shortly after independence, grew out of the wartime wilaya structure and the postwar necessity of subduing antigovernment insurgencies that were based in the various regions. Regional commanders control and administer bases, logistics, and housing, as well as conscript training. Commanders of army divisions and brigades, air force installations, and naval forces report directly to the Ministry of National Defense and service chiefs of staff on operational matters.

During the 1980s, most of the army's combat units were concentrated in Military Region II (Oran) and to a lesser extent in Military Region III (Béchar). Adjacent to Morocco, region III straddles the main access routes from that country and includes most of Algeria's hydrocarbon and manufacturing industries. It is also near the troubled Western Sahara, embracing territory previously claimed by Morocco.

Much of the internal disorder and violence associated with economic distress and the Islamist movement has occurred in Military Region I (Blida), which includes the capital of Algiers, and Military Region V (Constantine). Army units have been strengthened in and near the cities where attacks against the government and security forces have occurred. Although regional commanders were originally all colonels, the commanders of region I (Mohamed Djenouhat) and region V (Abdelhamid Djouadi) were both promoted to major general in 1992. The two southeastern jurisdictions--Military Region IV (Ouargla) and Military Region VI (Tamanrasset)--are sparsely populated tracts of desert where a limited number of combat troops carry out patrols and man small outposts. The Ouargla region assumed a measure of strategic importance after relations with Libya soured, but the military's main activities there and in region VI are the construction and planting projects undertaken by conscript forces.

Originally organized as independent infantry battalions, the ANP decided in 1966, based on Soviet advice, to form four mechanized divisions. However, logistical problems and the high cost of associated heavy weaponry soon forced a reassessment of the plan. In 1992 the army again began to reorganize on a divisional basis; hence some units have been in a state of flux.

According to The Military Balance, 1993-1994, in 1993 the army's main combat units consisted of two armored divisions, each with three tank regiments and one mechanized regiment, and two mechanized divisions, each with three mechanized regiments and one tank regiment. Furthermore, in 1993 there were five motorized infantry brigades and one airborne special forces brigade. Each infantry brigade consisted of four infantry battalions and one tank battalion. In addition, in 1993 the army had seven independent artillery battalions, five air defense battalions, and four engineering battalions. The brigades had authorized personnel levels of 3,500 men, but all units were believed to be understrength.

Twelve companies of desert troops, each with about 400 men, functioned as border guards. Originally these troops patrolled on camels, but by the 1980s they relied extensively on light reconnaissance vehicles. Two special riot units, said to number about 15,000 men, were assigned to maintain civil order. In addition to other riot-control equipment, they reportedly were armed with shotguns.

The army was well equipped with both older and more up-to- date models of Soviet armor and artillery. In 1993 it had nearly 1,000 tanks, including more than 600 T-62s and late-model T-72s. About 200 T-72s had been delivered since 1990. Earlier versions of wheeled armored personnel carriers (APCs), the Soviet BTR-50 and BTR-60, had been supplemented by BMP-1 and BMP-2 tracked armored infantry fighting vehicles mounted with 73mm guns and a few with Sagger antitank missiles. The army's extensive artillery inventory was headed by Soviet 122mm and 152mm self-propelled howitzers. There were also more than 100 122mm, 140mm, and 240mm multiple rocket launchers in the inventory. The principal antitank weapons were the Soviet Sagger and the French Milan. In addition to a variety of towed and self-propelled air defense guns, the army had Soviet SA-8 and SA-9 vehicle-mounted surfaceto -air missiles (SAMs) and SA-7 man-portable SAMs.

During the early years of the army's modernization in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of ANP officers went to the Soviet Union for training. Since then, Algeria has established its own military academies, although Russian advisers were still attached to the ANP in 1993. Strategic and tactical doctrine continues to be based on Russian models. Basic army cadet training is conducted at the military academy at Cherchell, west of Algiers, the site of a French interservices military school taken over by the government in 1963. Officer candidates attend for three years, generally followed by a year of specialized training before being commissioned and assigned to field units. The Cherchell academy also includes a staff college for advanced training of a limited number of field-grade officers of all branches.

A number of other institutions are used to train army personnel. Among these are the school for technical, administrative, and logistical training at El Harrach, just southeast of Algiers; the school for armored units at Batna; the school for artillery units at Telerghma near Constantine; the school for infantry commandos at Biskra; the school for communications technicians at Bougara, on the outskirts of Algiers; and the school for desert cavalry units at Ouargla.

The army's NCOs are trained at Ksar el Boukhari, about 100 kilometers south of Algiers, where they receive instruction in leadership, principles of command and control, tactical deployment, and political indoctrination. The NCOs are often used in command positions in smaller tactical units.

Algeria - Air Force

The Algerian air force, as of 1993 under the command of Colonel Mohamed Mokhtar Boutamine, has responsibility for defending the country's air space, supporting ground forces, supplying military transportation and cargo airlift, and carrying out land and maritime reconnaissance. In late 1993, the air force was equipped with some 193 combat aircraft and more than fifty attack helicopters, flying from about fifteen air bases. The service has expanded steadily since its inception in 1962, when Egypt donated five MiG-15 jet fighters and supplied a training mission. As more MiGs arrived, Algerian pilots were sent to Syria and Egypt and later to the Soviet Union for flight training. Others received flight training and technical schooling in France. With the help of Soviet advisers, a pilot training school was eventually established at Tafraoua near Oran. The Air Force Academy and a technical training school are also located at the Tafraoua complex.

According to The Military Balance, 1993-1994, in 1993 air force combat capabilities were built around three fighter/ground-attack squadrons and eight interceptor squadrons equipped exclusively with Soviet aircraft. The most advanced of these, although they had been in the inventory for more than a decade, were fourteen MiG-25s and three MiG-25Rs in a reconnaissance configuration. The fighter squadrons also included ninety-five MiG-21s and twenty MiG-23s. The fighter/ground-attack squadrons included forty MiG-23s and ten older Su-24s. The basic weapon of the fighter aircraft was the Soviet AA-2 (Atoll) and AA-6 air-to-air missiles.

The main pillar of the air force's transport capability in late 1993 was the fleet of sixteen Lockheed C-130 Hercules purchased from the United States. These were supplemented by six Soviet An-12s of comparable load capacity. Two Super King B-200s were outfitted for maritime reconnaissance.

The helicopter fleet in late 1993 comprised five squadrons of heavy- and medium-attack helicopters of Soviet manufacture, as well as a small number of transport helicopters. Air defense was under a separate command. It consisted of three brigades equipped with 85mm, 100mm, and 130mm (KS-12, KS-19, and KS-30) Soviet antiaircraft guns; and three SAM regiments, one equipped with Soviet SA-3, SA-6, and SA-8 SAMs.

Algeria - Navy

With help principally from the Soviet Union, the Algerian Navy underwent considerable enlargement and modernization during the 1980s. Its ambition was to develop a fleet of well-armed vessels that would enable it to deal with the Moroccan or Libyan fleet and permit Algeria to project naval power beyond its own coastal waters. As of 1993, the navy was reportedly interested in acquiring surplus vessels from West European navies for patrolling its 320-kilometer exclusive economic zone. These purchases, however, had not materialized by late 1993, probably owing to financial constraints.

In 1993 the naval complement of officers, enlisted personnel, and cadets was estimated at 6,700, with an additional 630 men in the coast guard. The latter group is part of the Ministry of Interior, although under the navy's operational control. All navy and coast guard personnel are volunteers. Previously, the commanding officer of the navy had held the rank of colonel; in 1992, however, a brigadier general, Chaabane Ghodbane, was named to the post.

Algeria received its first two submarines, Romeo-class vessels, from the Soviet Union in 1983. In 1987 and 1988, the country acquired two Kilo-class submarines, quiet-running, highspeed vessels armed with both torpedoes and mines, from the Soviet Union. The Romeos were retired for use as training ships. Two additional Kilo-class submarines are reportedly on order.

The largest surface vessels are three Soviet Koni-class frigates commissioned between 1980 and 1985. With 1,440 tons displacement, each frigate is armed with Gecko SAMs and four 76mm guns. Three Soviet Nanuchka II-class corvettes of 850 tons were delivered between 1980 and 1982. They are armed with Gecko SAMs and four surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs). New diesel engines are reportedly being installed on the corvettes after problems were experienced with the performance and reliability of their propulsion mechanisms.

In addition to the larger combat vessels, in 1993 the naval forces operated a number of fast-attack craft and some smaller units for coastal patrols. They included eleven former Soviet Osa I- and Osa II-class missile boats, each mounted with four Styx SSMs. The navy also possessed twelve Kebir-class fast-attack craft, each mounted with a 76mm gun. The coast guard was temporarily operating six of these. Designed by Brooke Marine, the first two were built in Britain and the remainder were assembled or built at Mers el Kebir with assistance from Vosper Thornycroft.

The fleet in 1993 boasted a modest amphibious capability, based on a Polish LCT (landing craft, tank) and two larger British-built landing ships acquired in 1983 and 1984. A maritime reconnaissance squadron with two Super King 200Ts had been assigned to the navy, although the squadron's personnel and aircraft came from the air force.

Algeria's naval academy at Tamentfoust near Algiers provides officer training equivalent to that of the army and the air force academies. The navy also operates a technical training school for its personnel at Tamentfoust. Some higher-ranking naval officers have taken advantage of training in France, Russia, and the United States. Principal naval bases are located near Algiers, at Mers el Kebir, and Annaba.

In addition to sixteen Italian-built light patrol craft, the coast guard in 1993 operated six Chinese patrol boats delivered in 1990; a seventh was delivered in 1992. In carrying out its coast guard duties, the navy coordinates its activities with elements of the Ministry of Interior, with the customs and immigration services, and the national police. Its goal is to prevent smuggling, the illegal entry of undesirable aliens, and other offenses in order to ensure the security of coastal areas.

Algeria - Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia

The army service uniform is of an olive drab shade similar in style to the uniform of the United States Army. Airborne troops wear camouflage material with distinctive boots. Air force uniforms are pale blue, and navy uniforms are dark blue. All services have winter, summer, and dress uniforms.

Insignia of rank are worn on shoulder straps by both officers and enlisted men of all services. Rank designations are similar to those of the French military. There are no warrant officer grades, nor is there a grade corresponding to private first class. The ranks of senior commanders can be identified by a large wreath device with two swords plus one star (brigadier general) or two stars (major general).

Algeria - Personnel and Recruitment

Independent Algeria has never experienced difficulty in meeting its military manpower needs. Its population is predominantly young. According to United States government data, of an estimated population in 1993 of 27.4 million, more than 6 million are males age fifteen to forty-nine. Of these, an estimated 3.8 million are considered fit for military service, and 293,000 reach the military age of nineteen annually. Accordingly, basic manpower resources are more than adequate to meet any foreseeable military needs.

Until mid-1967, the ANP relied entirely on volunteer manpower. Given the plentiful supply of young men, the economic attraction of the army compared with the difficulties of finding employment elsewhere, and the absence of aversion to military service, the ANP would seem to be able to depend on a voluntary system indefinitely. Algeria's commitment to Arab nationalism, however, caused a rethinking of recruitment policies after Arab forces were decisively defeated by Israel in the June 1967 War. By a 1968 decree, all Algerians were obligated to serve two years upon reaching the age of nineteen. The objective of this national service plan was to increase substantially the personnel strength of the army and, at the same time, to train a youth corps for national development. The first six months were to be spent in military training with the ANP and the rest in social and economic projects managed by the armed forces. National service was also intended to provide political education and indoctrination in the revolutionary socialist program of the government. As initially projected, an equal number of young men and women were to be inducted. In practice, far fewer than the originally intended numbers of men were called to duty, and the induction of women was never implemented. Some women were accepted as ANP volunteers, although fewer were serving in 1992 than in past years. Most of these women were in the lower grades and were limited to the military health service.

Conscription has remained in effect since 1969, although the period of compulsory service has been reduced to eighteen months. Those young men not conscripted by the end of the year in which they become eligible can obtain a certificate attesting to their exemption from future call-up so that they can continue their studies or work without further distraction.

After the national service program was introduced, conscripts generally were given civic-action assignments following their initial military training period of six months. In some cases, opportunities were offered for those with limited education to learn trades at various vocational schools, often connected with civil engineering and construction. Others learned to drive motor vehicles and to operate construction equipment. National service provided a ready source of workers for civic-action projects while freeing regular soldiers to concentrate on other military missions. Beginning in the 1980s, however, most conscripts appear to have been assigned to regular military units to complete their eighteen-month service obligation, and fewer were given nonmilitary assignments. Some conscripts, such as doctors who deferred their military service until completing their education, were allowed to fulfill their service obligation by occupying civilian posts in their special fields in rural areas or small towns.

In 1993 the top echelon of the Algerian officer corps, mainly men in their mid-fifties, included many veterans of the War of Independence. Most had served in the external ALN, a few had been guerrilla officers of the internal maquis (the French resistance during World War II), and others had experience in the French army. Some, like Nezzar, had served as NCOs with the French before defecting to the ALN.

The army's prestige--rooted in the revolutionary struggle against the French--was dimmed by its excessive use of force to control the mass demonstrations of 1988 and 1991. Most Algerian citizens were too young to recall the achievements of senior officers in the fight for independence. Moreover, much of the anger that had ignited demonstrations among the civilian population was directed against widespread corruption among highly placed officials. Although few of the senior military had been directly implicated, they tended to be regarded with the same suspicion as civilian officeholders.

Nevertheless, the newer military leadership was liberal in its outlook, associating itself with the forward-looking managerial class that welcomed the abandonment of the socialist experiment and favored political democratization and the adoption of a free-market system. Senior commanders were resolutely opposed to an Islamist-led state because they feared it would mean an end to the modernization movement.

Younger officers came from all walks of life. Because of the ANP's strict educational requirements, however, people raised in urban areas with greater educational opportunities were more strongly represented than those raised in rural Algeria. Generally, all officer candidates were expected to be eighteen to twenty-three years of age, to have completed twelve years of education and hold a baccalaureate certificate, to be unmarried, and to be in good health. Competitive written examinations were held for entry into the military academies.

Algeria - Conditions of Service

The general environment of Algerian military life has long been of sufficiently high quality to make service in the ANP a reasonably attractive alternative to the deteriorating conditions found in the civilian sector. Most military personnel enjoy a higher standard of dignity and comfort than the average civilian in an economy struggling with unemployment and inflation. Food and pay compare favorably with that found in the civil sector. Other advantages, such as medical care, retirement benefits, and in-service training for later use in a civilian career, also make military service attractive. In principle, the armed forces do not constitute a privileged group insulated from the problems afflicting Algerian society as a whole. Nevertheless, the system is better organized and the standards of services provided tend to be superior to those available in civilian life. In a possible allusion to a decline of these standards, General Nezzar spoke of the "Spartan" conditions of service life in discussing the problems of the armed forces in 1992.

After independence the government realized that the loyalty and morale of the armed forces were essential to its stability and from the start allocated the largest share of the military budget for personnel-related expenses: pay, allowances, rations, and clothing. The ANP operated post exchange and commissary systems, built holiday camps for dependents, and extended some opportunities for duty-free purchasing. Members of the armed forces also benefited from a social security program maintained by the ANP separately from the national program maintained by the government.

A political commissariat, set up by Boumediene in 1963 and patterned after similar groups in Soviet-type regimes, provided ideological indoctrination and oversight of the armed forces. Its officers reported directly to the FLN. The political commissariat provided political supervision, operated its own training school, and assigned graduates to all ANP units. Although apparently an influential agency in the 1970s, a decade later the commissariat served mainly as an instrument to provide goods and services to boost servicemen's morale.

In its earlier years, the ANP adopted a reserved and austere profile, dedicated to the national goals, exemplary in its conduct, and modest in its lifestyle. Differences between enlisted and officer pay, unlike those in some of the older armies of the Middle East and North Africa, did not reflect a class distinction in which a highly paid officer caste was separated from a mass of conscripts by a wide chasm of pay and privilege. Since the late 1970s, however, the officer corps has enjoyed comfortable living quarters and recreational facilities; had easy access to consumer goods, housing, and transportation; and been insulated from the sometimes overbearing state bureaucracy.

The officer corps is not characterized by elaborate ceremony, ostentatious attire, or an inflated rank structure. To maintain the revolutionary tradition of equality, the military hierarchy was deliberately limited to the rank of colonel. In 1984 this system was modified when the ranks of brigadier general and major general were created. A number of promotions in 1992 raised eight of some twenty brigadier generals to major general. The result was that commanders of similar rank often held vastly different command responsibilities. Seasoned and competent officers with relatively low ranks often held positions that in other armed forces would be associated with higher ranks.


Algerian military spending since independence has been relatively restrained. Despite the influence of the military establishment, the government on the whole has refrained from unduly favoring defense interests over other sectors; on the contrary, it has attempted to avoid burdensome military commitments. Algeria's outlays on its armed forces, both in terms of share of gross national product and of total government budget devoted to defense, have been well below those of its North African neighbors, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.

The bulk of funding for the Ministry of National Defense is allocated annually from the country's current budget. In addition, an unknown amount is included in the country's capital budget. According to official Algerian statistics, funds allocated to the ministry measured in dinars  remained relatively constant through the early 1970s. Although this was a time when the country was still creating a professional military establishment and was developing its air and naval services, defense funding showed a substantial decline as a percentage of the central government's current budget, reflecting the government's preoccupation with domestic socioeconomic development.

By the mid-1970s, military spending began to rise as the country sought to improve its defensive posture and to achieve a higher level of military preparedness after the October 1973 War in the Middle East and Morocco's moves to annex the Western Sahara. According to data compiled by the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), defense expenditures continued to increase rapidly between 1978 and 1982, but fell slightly as a percentage of the government's current budget from 14.1 percent in 1978 to 13.0 percent in 1982. Military expenditures reached a high point in 1982, amounting to US$1.6 billion in constant 1991 dollars. Algeria's officially reported military expenditures consisted entirely of recurring or operating expenditures; all or most capital spending and overseas arms purchases were omitted from the reported figures. The ACDA studies added estimates covering these unreported items to the defense budget.

ACDA's statistics indicated that military spending as a percentage of central government expenditures continued to decline after 1982, reaching a low of 6.3 percent in 1985, before rising again to nearly 10 percent in 1988. Military expenditures remained at 3 to 4 percent of GNP during most of the 1980s, but tapered off sharply to under 2 percent in 1991. Military expenditures per capita were US$50 annually in 1989 and US$28 in 1991. This sum was comparable to Morocco's expenditures, whereas Libya, with a much smaller population and an unusually large military sector financed by oil exports, spent US$613 per capita in 1991. A separate study, World Military and Social Expenditures by Ruth Leger Sivard, found that Algeria's military expenditures were proportionately lower than the average of all the countries of North Africa.

Algeria has no significant arms industry, and therefore valuable foreign exchange must be devoted to the purchase of imported weapons systems. To some extent, defense costs are offset by the contribution of the military to the civilian economy. Under both Boumediene and Benjedid, the government stressed the role of the armed forces in national development. Soldiers carried out public works projects that were often managed by officers. This aspect of the ANP's mission was emphasized in Article 82 of the 1976 constitution: "The People's National Army, instrument of the revolution, participates in the development of the country and in the construction of socialism." When a new constitution was adopted in 1989, the army's role was defined in a narrower traditional form as that of safeguarding national territory.

During the War of Independence, the FLN initiated a number of projects designed to achieve for the military a degree of selfsufficiency in producing food and other basic supplies. For example, at least fifty large farms were taken from French settlers and converted to army cooperatives after the war ended in 1962. These projects supplied some of the ANP's needs and the military also profited from sales on the civilian market. The army was also involved in manufacturing and construction enterprises. Much of the construction and surfacing of a major road across the Sahara to the Niger border was the responsibility of the army, as was a notable planting project, the barrage vert, or green wall of trees, aimed at limiting the spread of the Sahara.

The army, furthermore, built low-income housing projects as well as barracks and housing for its own personnel. Since 1989, however, the army has discontinued civilian construction activities and a number of military enterprises. Some of these enterprises, including a brickworks, a wood-processing plant, and a poultry-raising business, have been transferred to public or private companies. Only certain road and railroad projects of a strategic nature have been retained.


In spite of periodic reports that Algeria was negotiating with European manufacturers to produce weapons systems under license, the country continues to depend heavily on outsiders to supply the ANP. From independence through the 1980s, Algeria's most important supplier remained the Soviet Union. It was estimated that nearly 90 percent of the equipment in the ANP inventory in 1993 was of Soviet origin. Algerian leaders have frequently stated their desire to diversify their sources of arms and to obtain access to up-to-date Western equipment, but the country's straitened economic circumstances have precluded a major shift to purchases from the West.

At independence the newly created ANP was using equipment from various sources. Some small arms had been delivered to the ALN during the war from China, Egypt, and other countries. The new force also benefited from some military supplies turned over by the French forces as they left the country and from Egypt's assistance to the air unit. Overall, however, the military was very poorly equipped; it lacked the heavy weapons associated with a modern military establishment.

Overtures to Western nations by Ben Bella and Boumediene resulted in lukewarm responses or, at best, offers on terms the Algerians considered too stringent. The French government of Charles de Gaulle, in particular, was reluctant to supply heavy items on concessional terms to the country it had so recently fought. The Soviet Union extended Algeria its first military credit, equivalent to about US$100 million, following an urgent visit by Boumediene to Moscow in late 1963 after a setback in the border war with Morocco. Soviet heavy arms and equipment soon began flowing into the country. After the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Soviet Union stepped up arms deliveries and extended additional credits. Moroccan moves to annex the Western Sahara apparently provided a catalyst for further arms purchases. In 1980 the Soviet Union agreed to deliver an estimated US$3.5 billion in arms through 1985. Another agreement was signed in 1986 for a further US$2 billion in arms. These sales were on a credit basis highly favorable to Algeria, with repayment over an extended period at low interest rates. Nevertheless, Algeria was unwilling to enter into a close military relationship with the Soviet Union. It refused the Soviet Union basing rights at the large naval installation at Mers el Kebir, which the French had handed over in 1968, and the holding of joint military exercises.

Algeria received some of the most modern Soviet-made arms during the 1975 to 1985 period. The ANP was one of the first armies outside Eastern Europe to be equipped with the T-72 tank. It also received the BMP-1 and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle, MiG-23 and MiG-25 fighter aircraft, Mi-24 attack helicopters, modern rapid-firing artillery, and SA-2 and SA-3 air defense missiles. Although these were the "export" versions of various models, which lacked the capabilities of those in first-line Soviet units, they represented high-quality weaponry.

The Soviet Union also provided extensive training to ANP personnel. Between late 1963 and 1985, more than 3,500 officers and enlisted personnel received technical instruction in the Soviet Union. The number of Soviet military advisers assigned to Algeria to train and guide ANP personnel in the use of Soviet equipment as well as in tactical operations is estimated to have reached a high of 3,000, although by 1993 the number of Russians had fallen below 500.

During the 1980s, Algerian officials evinced a growing interest in ending the Soviet Union's almost complete monopoly in the sale of arms. The Benjedid government sought to practice strict nonalignment in its relations with the superpowers. The Algerians were impressed by the superior performance of Western equipment used by the Israelis during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and by the more comprehensive training and support packages Western suppliers provided to their customers. Nonetheless, few negotiations with Western countries were actually consummated, presumably because of Algeria's tight budgetary and foreign-exchange limitations.

Available data reflected the continued predominance of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as sources of weaponry. According to ACDA, of a total of US$3,820 million in arms imports during the period 1981 to 1985, about US$3,200 million originated in the Soviet Union, US$170 million in the United States (primarily C- 130 transport aircraft), US$100 million in France, US$160 million in Britain, and US$160 million in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). During the period 1985 to 1989, Algerian arms imports totaled US$3,260 million, of which US$2,700 million originated in the Soviet Union, US$430 million in other East European nations, US$50 million in the United States, US$40 million in Britain, and US$20 million in France. Deliveries reached a peak of US$1,400 million in 1981, representing 12.4 percent of all imports. By 1989 arms deliveries were down to US$600 million, only 6.8 percent of total imports and continued to full sharply in 1990 and 1991.

Under a set of agreements signed in 1963 and 1967, French military advisers maintained a permanent presence in Algeria after independence. A number of places at the French military academy at St. Cyr and the French gendarmerie school at Melun were allotted to Algerians. In 1969 about 340 French officers and NCOs were detached to work with the training services of the ANP. Relations chilled, however, after France escalated its military support for Morocco during the Western Sahara conflict; by 1981 only about twenty French advisers remained in Algeria.

The administration of the socialist François Mitterrand, who was elected president of France in 1981, was thought to be more attuned to Algerian interests than previous French governments had been. The French government increased the number of places in French military schools for Algerian cadets and extended additional credits. Algeria bought Panhard armored personnel carriers for the gendarmerie and Milan antitank missiles, but more extensive purchases, notably a national command-and-control radar network, failed to materialize.

From independence through the early 1980s, the ANP had purchased relatively small amounts of less sensitive military equipment from the United States such as several executive transport aircraft and unarmed primary trainers. Beginning in 1981, as part of a rapprochement that was kindled by Algeria's role as an intermediary in the release of the American hostages in Iran, Algerian requests for more sensitive military equipment were reviewed more favorably. In addition to the Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft, the United States furnished telecommunications equipment and military trucks during this period.

All of these sales were conducted on a commercial basis, and all of the equipment was classified as nonlethal. During Benjedid's 1985 visit to the United States, however, Washington approved Algeria's eligibility to purchase general defense equipment under the conditions of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Algerian arms requests were examined on a case-by- case basis. Direct purchases under FMS were minimal. They amounted to only US$2.2 million in fiscal year (FY) 1991 and were estimated to reach only $1 million in FY 1992 and FY 1993, although commercial transactions were somewhat larger. Since 1985, the United States Department of Defense has provided a small annual grant under the International Military Education and Training Program to provide professional military development courses and technical training for Algerian officers in leadership positions or deemed to be potential leaders.

Algeria purchased two tank landing ships from Britain in the early 1980s. In addition, the British undertook a joint project with the Algerian navy for the delivery of twelve fast-attack craft armed with Italian Otomat missiles. The first two of the attack craft were built in Britain, and ten others were built or assembled at the Mers el Kebir shipyard with British technical assistance.

Algeria has purchased some patrol craft from China, but there has been little other evidence of military cooperation between the two countries since the War of Independence. In 1991 it was disclosed that the Chinese were assisting in the construction of a nuclear reactor at Ain Oussera, about 140 kilometers south of Algiers. Subsequent reports stated that Iraq had sent scientists and some uranium to Algeria. Algerians asserted that the reactor was intended to produce only radioactive isotopes for medical research and to generate electric power. However, the secrecy surrounding the program, which had been initiated in 1986, raised suspicions. Algeria is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, having rejected it on the principle that Algeria should not have to renounce a nuclear weapons program when other nations could continue with theirs. Algeria subsequently agreed to inspection of the site by the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Responsibility for maintaining law and order is shared by the Gendarmerie Nationale and the Sûreté Nationale. Operations against subversives are conducted by various civilian organizations as well as by Military Security (Sécurité Militaire--SM). The gendarmerie, active principally in rural areas and remote mountain and desert regions, and the Sûreté, an urban police force, were both formed after independence in 1962 and were patterned after their counterparts in metropolitan France. Both organizations carry out normal police duties, although they handle routine internal security functions as well. Military Security is responsible for foreign intelligence, military offenses, and civilian espionage and subversion, especially at times of a breakdown of public order. )

The SM operates under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, as does the gendarmerie, although the latter is considered a paramilitary adjunct to the armed forces. In the early 1990s, the SM had about 6,000 to 10,000 military personnel equipped with shotguns and other small arms organized into counterterrorist brigades. SM personnel are commanded by an army general and report directly to the minister of national defense. Active in Algiers and the surrounding area, they have as their mission to investigate and respond to intelligence provided by the police and the gendarmerie. A Republican Guard Brigade of 1,200 persons is also available to deal with civil disturbances. It is equipped with light tanks and armored vehicles.

Algeria - Gendarmerie Nationale

The Gendarmerie Nationale serves as the main rural police force. It was commanded in 1993 by Major General Abbas Ghezaiel, who reported directly to the minister of national defense. In 1993 gendarmerie personnel constituted a total force of 35,000. Although generally regarded as a versatile and competent paramilitary force, the gendarmerie since 1988 has been severely tested in dealing with civil disorder. It frequently has lacked sufficient manpower at the scene of disorder and its units have been inadequately trained and equipped for riot control. The gendarmerie, however, has demonstrated the ability to root out terrorist groups operating from mountain hideouts.

The gendarmerie is responsible for maintaining law and order in villages, towns, and rural areas; providing security surveillance over local inhabitants; and representing government authority in remote regions, especially where tensions and conflicts have occurred in the past. The gendarmerie is organized in battalions, whose component companies and platoons are dispersed to individual communities and desert outposts. Its regional headquarters are in the same cities as the six military regional headquarters; it has subdivisions in the forty-eight wilayat. A highly mobile force, the gendarmerie possesses a modern communications system connecting its various units with one another and with the army. Gendarmerie equipment includes light armored weapons and transport and patrol vehicles. The force in 1993 had forty-four Panhard armored personnel carriers, fifty Fahd armored personnel carriers, and twenty-eight Mi-2 light helicopters. In addition to utilizing training provided by the French since independence, the gendarmerie operates its own schools for introductory and advanced studies. The gendarmerie's main training center is at Sidi Bel Abbes, the former headquarters of France's Foreign Legion. The academy for officers is at Isser, about 150 kilometers east of Algiers.

Algeria - Sûreté Nationale

The Sûreté Nationale is the primary policing authority in Algeria's principal cities and other urban areas. Subordinated administratively to the Ministry of Interior, the Sûreté is charged with maintaining law and order, protecting life and property, investigating crimes, and apprehending offenders. In addition, it performs other routine police functions, including traffic control.

Under the direction of its inspector general, the Sûreté in 1993 consisted of a force of 16,000 and is believed to be organized along the lines of its French counterpart, with operational and investigative branches and supporting services. The judiciary police branch is responsible for criminal investigations, working in close coordination with the Office of the Public Prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice. Police elements assigned to the capitals of the wilayat are under the nominal control of the individual governors. A special riot police force is equipped with modern riot-control gear. Although the police were able to cope with urban disturbances and violence during the early and mid-1980s, the military had to be called in to help quell the severe riots in late 1988.

Elements of the Sûreté also play a role in countering threats to the government arising from political subversion. The Sûreté assigns police contingents to work with customs inspectors at legal points of entry to control illegal activities. Their main concerns are apprehending undesirable immigrants and contraband traffickers.

Algeria - Intelligence Agencies

Military Security is the principal and most effective intelligence service in the country. Its chief in 1993, General Mohamed Médiène, was believed to number among the more influential officers of the ANP. After Boumediene took power in 1965, he relied on Military Security to strengthen his control over the ANP during the difficult process of amalgamating "external" and "internal" ALN personnel, some of whom were of questionable loyalty. Military Security became the dominant security service in the 1970s, responsible to the head of state for monitoring and maintaining files on all potential sources of opposition to the national leadership.

Although theoretically bound by the same legal restrictions as the Sûreté and gendarmerie, Military Security is less circumscribed in its operations. Frequent cases of incommunicado detention of suspects have been ascribed mainly to Military Security. An important role in the area of national security was later assumed by the General Delegation for Documentation and Security (Delégation Générale de Documentation et Sûreté--DGDS) as the principal civilian apparatus for conducting foreign intelligence and countering internal subversion. The security services are believed to infiltrate Islamist groups, to employ paid informers for monitoring opposition movements, and to practice extensive telephone surveillance without prior court authorization as required by law. During and after the riots of October 1988, widely published accounts told of torture and other human rights abuses of detainees. Both Military Security and the DGDS were implicated in the brutal treatment of detainees to obtain confessions or extract information on clandestine political activists. Government officials have acknowledged that individual cases of improper behavior by security forces occurred but stressed that torture was not sanctioned and that evidence of it would be investigated.

In September 1990, Benjedid announced the dissolution of the DGDS after criticism of its repressive role in the 1988 riots. The dissolution coincided with other government reforms to remove barriers to individual liberties. Informed sources believed, however, that this action did not represent an end to domestic intelligence operations but rather a transfer of DGDS functions to other security bodies. Surveying the intelligence picture in August 1992, the French periodical Jeune Afrique concluded that Military Security, with its abundant documentation on the leadership and organization of the violent Islamist groups, remained the senior intelligence body concerned with internal security. Other intelligence groups include a Coordinating Directorate of Territorial Security, an Antiterrorist Detachment, and a working group of the High Council of State charged with political and security matters. The precise functions and jurisdictions of these bodies remain fluid, according to Jeune Afrique.

Algeria - Criminal Justice System

Ordinary criminal cases are heard in the regular civil court system by judges appointed by the Ministry of Justice through an independent board. Criminal cases are heard in forty-eight provincial courts, which have jurisdiction over more serious crimes as well as appellate jurisdiction over lower courts in local tribunals (tribunaux), which have original jurisdiction for less serious offenses. According to the United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1992, the judiciary is generally independent of executive or military control, except in cases involving security or public order. During the period of martial law in 1991 and the state of emergency in 1992, this independence was largely circumvented.

In December 1992, special antiterrorist courts with civilian judges were established to try crimes specifically relating to terrorism. According to the Department of State, these courts are believed to have been formed so that the government might have greater influence over the outcome of security-related criminal cases. A State Security Court, which had previously tried cases involving endangerment of national security, had been abolished in 1989 as part of Benjedid's political reform program. Muslim sharia law predominated in local courts but there were no Islamic courts as such. Military courts dealt with offenses by military personnel and all types of espionage cases. During the 1991 state of emergency, about 700 persons were tried in military courts whose jurisdictions had been widened to include acts endangering national security. The trials of seven FIS leaders in 1992 were among those heard by military courts. Some of the rights normally accorded in civil courts were ignored or circumscribed in the military courts.

Defendants in civil courts usually have full access to counsel who can function freely without governmental interference. The Algerian Bar Association provides pro bono legal services to defendants unable to pay for their own lawyer. In connection with criminal investigations, detention for questioning normally cannot exceed forty-eight hours, but an antiterrorist law issued in 1992 permits prearraignment detentions of up to twelve days.

Detainees must be informed immediately of the nature of charges against them. Once charged, a person can be held under pretrial detention indefinitely while the case is being investigated. No bail system exists, but provisional liberty may be granted if the detainee can demonstrate availability at all stages of the inquiry. Lawyers are entitled to have access to their clients at all times under visual supervision of a guard. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses and present evidence. Trials are public, and defendants have the right of appeal.

Prior to the civil unrest of 1991 and 1992, the government had introduced political reforms that liberalized the justice system with respect to actions deemed to threaten internal security. Previously, citizens could be arrested for expressing views critical of or different from those of the government, for disturbing the public order, for associating with illegal organizations, or, in extreme cases, for threatening state security. The new constitution of 1989 provides the right to form political parties and civic associations and to strike, and strengthens the right of freedom of expression and opinion. Nevertheless, under legislation introduced in 1990, persons convicted of publishing information endangering state security or national unity can be sentenced for a term of up to ten years. Criticizing Islam or another revealed religion can bring a penalty of up to three years' imprisonment.

According to Amnesty International, more than 100 persons were under sentence of death at the close of 1992. At least twenty-six Islamists were sentenced to death after the banning of the FIS in 1992, but no executions were actually carried out in 1992. More than 100 civilians and supporters of Islamic opposition groups were killed by security forces during 1992, and more than 1,000 people were in detention at the end of 1992 according to government sources.

The principal leaders of the FIS arrested in 1991--Abbassi Madani and Ali Benhadj--were tried by a military court in mid1992 for fomenting rebellion against the state. They could have been given the death sentence, but government prosecutors asked for life imprisonment. The court's sentence of twelve years was lighter than expected. Its leniency was construed as having been dictated by the government in an effort to ease tensions and improve the atmosphere for possible reconciliation with more moderate Islamic factions.

In 1987, reversing its previous policy, the government officially recognized a human rights group, the Algerian League of Human Rights. Legal status was subsequently accorded to the Committee Against Torture, which investigated allegations of government torture, as well as to a number of other human rights organizations. They have been permitted to lobby, publicize their findings, and publish reports on the treatment of detainees.

Under the 1991 state of emergency and the 1992 martial law decrees that gave military and security authorities wide latitude to enforce public order, large numbers of Islamists were detained. The government acknowledged that it detained 9,000 persons at eight desert camps without formal charges in 1992. By the end of the year, 1,000 were still held in four remaining camps, despite government plans to close them down. FIS leaders claimed that the number of those rounded up by the government had actually reached 30,000.

Algeria - Prison Conditions

The prison system is operated as a separate function of the Ministry of Justice. The system includes many facilities established and operated by the French during their rule. Persons convicted of lesser crimes are sent to provincial civil prisons. Those found guilty of more serious crimes, including murder, kidnapping, or rape, which carry a potential death sentence, serve time in one of three penitentiaries. Persons convicted of treason, terrorism, and other crimes against the state are also sent to the penitentiaries.

According to the United States Department of State, conditions in both types of institutions range from primitive to modern. Conditions in the penitentiaries are said to be worse than in the more numerous civil prisons. At El Harrach, the main prison in Algiers, prisoners are often crowded together, and sanitary facilities are poor. Inmates at other prisons, especially those in outlying areas, are thought to live under better conditions. Prisoners are segregated according to the seriousness of their crimes and the length of their sentences.

Medical care is described as rudimentary in most cases, although a local doctor under contract visits each prison regularly to treat sick prisoners. Seriously ill prisoners are sent to local hospitals. Inmates of civil prisons can receive visits from their families once a week. It is more difficult to visit prisoners held in penitentiaries. Conjugal visits are sometimes permitted at the discretion of local prison authorities. The prison diet is described as bland and starchy. Visiting families may bring food to augment the inadequate prison fare.

Detainees in the Saharan security camps have been forced to contend with extreme heat, poor food, inadequate bedding, and overcrowding. Next of kin often have not been notified about inmates' detention, and many detainees have been released near the camps without transportation home. A medical team under the auspices of the Algerian League of Human Rights found no evidence of torture in the detention camps, however. The United States Department of State has observed that in 1992 there were fewer reports of torture and brutal treatment than in prior years. The government has responded to concerns that have been raised about conditions in prisons and desert internment camps by organizations such as Amnesty International and has promised to remind military commanders of their responsibility to safeguard the rights of internees.

Most of the data on the strength and equipment of the armed forces are based on The Military Balance, 1993-1994, and on Jane's Fighting Ships, 1992-93. Little detailed information has been disclosed by Algerian authorities on the structure and performance standards of the service branches. The role of the military in the political crisis of 1991-92 has been analyzed by several authorities, including Guy Mandron in Jane's Intelligence Review and John P. Entelis and Lisa J. Arone in Middle East Policy. Numerous articles in the French periodical, Jeune Afrique, have followed the efforts of the security forces to maintain order against violence by Islamic radicals.

Alastair Horne's A Savage War of Peace is a balanced and comprehensive account of the military and political aspects of the Algerian War of Independence. The functioning of the criminal justice system and the record of the police and the gendarmerie in the struggle against Islamic-inspired dissidence are summarized in the United States Department of State's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and in annual reports by Amnesty International.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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