November Algeria report (1/4)



February 8, 2013

                     Executive Summary

                        Political Trends

·     Although there have been suggestions that DRS commander Tewfik may no longer be as pivotal a player as he once was, the DRS is understood to have been put in command of operations at the In Amenas siege and to have responsibility for channelling critical information to President Bouteflika.

·     The press has been strongly supportive of the army’s intervention at In Amenas, but has implicitly questioned the possible shortcomings of the DRS in preventing the terrorist take-over of the gas facility, which may be damaging for Tewfik.

·     Rumours that Bouteflika was in Geneva for medical treatment during the In Amenas crisis appear to be untrue. The President is reported to be in good health and the main arbiter in the forthcoming presidential contest.

·     Although the possibility of Bouteflika himself running for a 4th term of office has still not been ruled out, PM Abdelmalek Sellal is now being mentioned as a possible successor.

                        Foreign Relations

·     The In Amenas attack was launched in retaliation for Algeria’s assistance to the French war effort in northern Mali, which includes efforts to cut off AQMI’s access to fuel as well as authorising French air force overflights.

·     The In Amenas attack and the earlier islamist offensive in Mali initially put the Algerian regime on the back foot, stoking its fears of losing all control over the Sahara, exposing its collaboration with France and putting its relations with countries whose nationals were among the hostages under strain.

·     Algiers appears however to be bouncing back, earning respect for its tough response, securing a security cooperation agreement with the UK and pressing for transfers of sensitive military and security technology.


·     The In Amenas crisis dominated reporting of security news in January, possibly crowding out other incidents.

·     In Amenas was the first ever direct attack on oil and gas production facilities in Algeria since the outbreak of violence in 1992.

·     The opportunistic attempt by AQMI and its allies to build an ‘Islamic emirate’ in northern Mali brought them into direct conflict with France, transforming AQMI’s strategic orientation and recasting Mokhtar Belmokhtar as the new face of the global jihad.

·     The attacks of AQMI’s Saharan branch on Algerian interests are subsidiary to its struggle with France, but it remains to be seen whether or not the national leadership in the north of the country will adopt this orientation.

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