For the first time in several year Algerian oil and natural gas production were up (4.4 percent) in 2014. But because of the falling price of oil income from exported oil and gas was down eight percent. The government wants to increase production this year to make up for falling prices. That may not be possible but long term the government plans to increase oil and gas exports 50 percent in the next decade. This seems possible if the country remains at peace. For a long time the government had neglected exploration for new oil and gas deposits. That changed when production began to decline. Now money has been spent to find new deposits but will be years before all those new finds are producing large quantities of gas and oil.
There has been no violent Islamic terrorist activity so far this year. That is a continuation of a decade long trend. There are still plenty of Algerian Islamic terrorists in the region but they find it easier and safer to operate anywhere but Algeria. So Algerian Islamic terrorists show up in neighboring countries and in Europe. Algeria continues to push a policy of strong border security and non-intervention in the unrest tearing neighboring Libya apart and keeping northern Mali a constant target of Islamic terrorist violence. To help this along the government continues to sponsor Mali peace talks in Algeria. The current talks featured the personal participation of the Mali prime minister for the first time. These talks have been making slow progress because of the reluctance of the majority of Malians (black Africans in the south) to grant the degree of autonomy the lighter skinned Arab and Tuareg minority in the north want. Getting the Mali prime minister personally involved is seen as a step forward but there is still no final agreement.
Algerian efforts to get the warring parties in Libya talking have so far failed, although Italy has joined Algeria in trying to get such talks going. Egypt sees Libyan peace talks as futile and counterproductive because the Islamic terrorist factions really have no interest in compromising. Nevertheless Algeria and most Western nations (especially the EU) see a negotiated settlement as the best way to deal with the Libya civil war. Algeria, Italy, the United States and the UN are trying to persuade Egypt, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Qatar to drop their support for more secular (and non-terrorist) pro-Tobruk factions fighting in Libya.
The increased Algerian border security has led to more arrests, but almost all of those caught are smugglers, not Islamic terrorists. Most of the smugglers are moving consumer goods (cheap fuel, expensive alcohol and low level drugs like cannabis, for use in Algeria) and illegal migrants headed for Europe. More valuable shipments like drugs headed for Europe (cocaine and heroin), precious metals (usually gold), illegal weapons (especially large quantities of explosives, RPGs and assault rifles), illegal migrants (who can afford to pay high fees) and known Islamic terrorists are rarely caught. This indicates that the high-end smugglers still have their arrangements with border security commanders to allow smugglers who can pay large bribes to get through without interference. The border guards have incentives to catch smugglers as they get some of the value of the seized vehicles (usually expensive all-terrain models) and cargo.
Weapons are often carried by smugglers for self-defense against bandits, but the border guards make a big deal out of each arrested smuggler caught with self-defense weapons as being an “arms smuggler.” The increased border security effort has become a major problem for the low-end smugglers who have had to find new smuggling routes as the traditional ones (some used for centuries) were now patrolled by aircraft and troops on the ground. Because of the Islamic terror threat the government has made it more difficult for the smugglers to bribe their way past the security forces, which has simply led to higher bribes being paid by those (like Islamic terrorist groups that dominate drug smuggling in the region) who can afford it. The low value smugglers still get through, but in fewer numbers and via more difficult routes. The security forces are still detecting or arresting Islamic terrorists in the south and north who got smuggled in successfully. Most of the smugglers arrested are not Algerians although Algerians tend to be the most common nationality found to be involved.
In early 2014 Algeria granted permission for foreign companies to explore for shale gas deposits. Exploration drilling began in late 2014 and that triggered protests from locals. The government responded by insisting that shale gas extraction was safe and that these were only exploratory activities and no one had been given permission to actually begin production. The shale deposits lie inland in a band across central Algeria from the eastern to the western borders. Algeria is believed to have some of the largest shale gas deposits in the world. Thus Algeria has potential shale gas deposits that are the energy equivalent of over five billion barrels of oil which is nearly as large as U.S. deposits and more than five times what Israel has found. The foreign energy firms are drilling to confirm how much recoverable shale gas is actually there. Moreover the Algerian reserves are far from the nearest source of water (the Mediterranean) and billions of dollars would have to be spent on infrastructure (pipelines to get sea water to the wells and other pipelines to get the gas to the coast and liquefaction plants so the gas could be exported). All this requires that Algeria remain at peace for the next few decades, which may be the most difficult task of all considering the growing social discontent because of the continuing corruption and misrule. The protests against shale drilling are more about distrust of the government and its corrupt ways that worries about the side effects of shale gas production.
February 9, 2015: Algeria again declined to send warplanes to assist with the bombing campaign against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Algeria first declined to help out against ISIL last November. This time, despite the recent burning alive of the Jordanian pilot which enraged most Arab countries, Algeria claims it would participate if it were not for technical and logistical difficulties. These are described as largely related to the fact that the Algerian Air Force is equipped with Russian warplanes while all the nations currently bombing ISIL are using Western (mostly American) aircraft. ISIL has no real presence in Algeria (although come local Islamic terrorists have pledged allegiance to ISIL) and refusing to join is considered a friendly gesture to Russia, who continues to supply Algeria with most of its weapons.
February 7, 2015: The two ethnic Algerian Islamic terrorists who attacked the publisher of Charlie Hebdo and killed twelve people there were another side-effect of the 1990s war against Islamic terrorists in Algeria. Many Algerians fled to France, which welcomed them. But the popularity of Islamic terrorism among young Algerians, even those born in France, survived. The third Islamic terrorists involved in Islamic terrorist attacks in in another part of Paris, killed a policewoman then went into a Jewish supermarket and killed four Jews there. But an ethnic Mali employee of the store quietly led most of the 15 people still in the store into the walk-in freezer to hide them. He turned off the freezer and the lights downstairs and then slipped out of the building. The store employee was initially arrested by police as he fled but soon convinced the police what was really going on in the store and the gunmen was killed and all the people in the store rescued. The Moslem store employee was hailed as a hero and the French government soon rewarded with French citizenship. This was a big deal in Mali. The third gunman was a native of Mali and a career criminal before he was radicalized. He had worked in coordination with the two ethnic Algerian Islamic terrorists.
Tunisia revealed that it had arrested 32 Islamic terrorists from Tunisia, Syria and Libya a week earlier before they could carry out a dozen suicide vehicle bomb attacks on February 3rd. Those arrested were taken in several locations around the country. Captured documents and interrogations indicated that the suspects were working for ISIL and several related Islamic terrorist organizations in Libya and Syria.
February 4, 2015: Algeria and Tunisia have agreed to increase their cooperation in counter-terrorism matters. This includes more sharing of intelligence and coordination of security efforts near their mutual border.
January 25, 2015: A few kilometers from the Algerian border Moroccan police arrested an Algerian Islamic terrorist wanted as part of the group responsible for beheading a French tourist last September. Another terrorism suspect got away during the arrest. The leader of the that kidnapped and beheaded the Frenchman, Abdelmalek Gouri and two of his followers were killed some 50 kilometers east of the Algerian capital in December. Gouri was a veteran of the 1990s Islamic terrorist campaign to take over Algeria. He has been on the run for nearly two decades and was known to have remained active. In 2014 Gouri announced that his faction was joining ISIL. It took three days to confirm the identity of Gouri.
January 18, 2015: Some 120 kilometers east of the capital police found a hidden quantity of Islamic terrorist weapons. This included five suicide bomb vests, six bombs and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. This was found near where, three days ago, an army patrol has found the body of the French tourist beheaded last September by Islamic terrorists loyal to ISIL. After the murder the government sent more than 3,000 soldiers and police to track down the killers, which succeeded in finding and killing most of them.
January 17, 2015: In Libya (Tripoli) a bomb exploded outside the Algerian embassy, wounding two security guards and a nearby civilian. The Arab League warned the Tripoli government that violence like this had to cease otherwise most Arab states would order their remaining diplomats and citizens out of the city. The Algerian embassy was closed in 2014, as were most other embassies in Tripoli.