The security forces are waging a major campaign against smuggling. Algeria and its neighbors also want to make their mutual borders an effective barrier to Islamic terrorists as well as smugglers. Algeria closed the official border crossings with Mali in January 2013 to make it more difficult for Islamic terrorists to get into Algeria. This shut down trade and that hurt Mali more than Algeria. The Libyan border has also been closed because of the civil war going on there and the presence of so many Islamic terrorists. Meanwhile Algeria sent more troops to the Mali and Libyan borders this year to deal with the smugglers and others trying to cross illegally. Mali is coordinating efforts to secure the border in order to get the border crossings reopened. Meanwhile Algeria has long range plans for increasing security along all its previously unguarded borders. These borders are 6,343 kilometers long and include frontiers with seven countries. Moreover most of these borderlands are in the thinly occupied desert. Before aircraft were invented it was impossible to secure these borders. But even with aircraft a tightly sealed border remains impossible. About half that area is dangerous because of the Islamic terrorist threat in those countries. Libya, Mali and Tunisia comprise 52 percent of Algeria’s borders and the 1,376 kilometer long Mali border is particularly troublesome since it is all desert and very popular with smugglers and other outlaws from the regions to the south. Thus the Algerian effort to more effectively patrol those borders. Most of those caught sneaking in are smugglers, mainly because Algeria is now considered a hostile refuge for Islamic terrorists fleeing increasingly successful counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel. The smuggled goods most commonly encountered are alcohol, drugs, fuel, weapons, consumer goods, illegal migrants headed for Europe and Islamic terrorists.
The incumbent president (Abdelaziz Bouteflika) was briefly in a French hospital recently and is still disabled from his stroke. In early April Bouteflika was reelected to a forth five year term. He received 81 percent of the vote in what is widely regarded as a rigged election. The voters are not happy at the fact that Bouteflika was reelected even though he is too infirm (via age and a recent stroke) to campaign himself, much less govern. The five other candidates believed the government would rig the vote and they were apparently right. Most Algerians want Bouteflika and his corrupt cronies out of power but that is not happening as long as Bouteflika still has the support of the security forces. He does have that support so he can hang on. As public anger grows there is a the growing risk of dissatisfaction spreading to the soldiers and police, who have a better sense of the public mood than the wealthy and corrupt officials and businessmen who surround Bouteflika. This could get ugly and to avoid losing power the government offered to change the constitution to, in theory, give more people more access to government decision making. Most Algerians see this another scam that provides the illusion of democracy while the reality is still rigged elections and bureaucrats doing what they want, not what the people need. A growing number of Algerians see another civil war, this one against the corrupt and incompetent families that have dominated the government for so long. All it will take is the right spark, an event that will set off something the loyal security forces cannot, or do not want to, handle.
Bouteflika has been in power since 1999 and he held on mainly because the oil price shot up because of growing demand from India and East Asia. The Algerian government took in over $700 billion dollars during the last fifteen years and Algerians could not help but notice that senior politicians and their families became enormously rich while the rest of the economy stagnated and the unemployment rate kept going up. In response to this the government has been more active in prosecuting corrupt officials since 2011 but it’s always the lower ranking ones. The most senior people and their families are largely immune. These families became rich via the simple technique of adding 10-20 percent to the cost of government contracts and distributing that money among themselves. Nothing unique about that, nor about how as long as the security forces are well paid and content the plundering can continue indefinitely. Only a major uprising can upset this and that is very hard to get going as long as the people running the government know who to pay off, who to chase out of the country and who to imprison or murder. Many Algerians believe the current crooks running things are losing their touch and many Algerians see growing opportunities for another revolution. That, however, is no panacea because these rebellions against corrupt older rebels often results in a new generation of corrupt officials taking over. This is an ancient problem in nations that have lucrative natural resource exports. With lots of money flowing through a small group of people (the government) it is all too easy for those in power to take a cut and pay off enough subordinates to keep this scam going indefinitely, or until replaced by another gang of crooks.
November 27, 2014: Algeria has hosted three rounds of peace talks between Mali and the Tuareg rebels of northern Mali. This third round just ended without a final agreement. The main obstacle now is the degree of autonomy the Tuareg dominated north would have. For any peace deal to work the Islamic terrorists have to be kept out of northern Mali and this requires some military help from Algeria. For decades the main source of Islamic terrorists in North Africa has been Algeria. Thus both countries want their mutual border to be an effective barrier to Islamic terrorists and smugglers. Mali has cooperated in securing the border.
Turkey has warned its citizens to exercise caution when visiting parts of Algeria where Islamic terrorists have been known to operate.
November 26, 2014: Police revealed that they have identified an Islamic terrorists killed in October as one of those Jund al Khalifa members responsible for the beheading of a French citizen in September. Since early October the government has been seeking fifteen members of Jund al Khalifa, including the group’s leader, for responsibility for the September kidnapping and videoed beheading of a French tourist. All fifteen of the wanted men are Algerians and most of them veterans of the Islamic terrorism campaign in the 1990s. The government believes the Jund al Khalifa crew are the ones responsible for most of the Islamic terrorist attacks west of the capital in the last few years and now these guys have made themselves hated by most Moslems by taking credit for this grisly murder and aligning themselves with ISIL
(Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant)
. The government wants Jund al Khalifa found and destroyed and apparently many Algerians agree with that approach.
November 16, 2014: In the south border guards found and destroyed two SUVs sneaking in from Mali. The five men in the vehicles were killed and the vehicles were found to be loaded with weapons to be sold in Algeria. Meanwhile on the Libyan border another vehicle was destroyed, killing two men. This vehicle had small arms and rockets on board.
November 13, 2014: Algerian and Egyptian officials met for the seventh time since 2011 to discuss their cooperation on dealing with Libya. Neither side wants to intervene militarily, although Egypt is believed to be doing just that clandestinely. Both countries admit to increasing their border security with Libya and sharing intelligence on Islamic terrorists, especially those operating in Libya.
November 11, 2014: An Air Force MiG-25 jet reconnaissance aircraft crashed during a training mission. Algeria obtained twenty MiG-25s from Russia in the late 1970s but only about a dozen are still believed to be operational. They are useful for photo-reconnaissance over the vast borders in the desert south.
November 5, 2014: In neighboring Tunisia four soldiers were killed and eleven wounded when Islamic terrorists attacked the bus they were on near the Algerian border.