November 24, 2017:
So far this year there has been less and less Islamic terrorist violence each month. There has been continued Islamic terrorist activity as groups like AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) trying to maintain some base areas, mainly in the rural east (along the coast) and southeast. Those efforts are being seriously threatened by continuing losses.
Early in 2017 rarely were more than ten Islamic terrorists killed in a month with about as many captured. This trended downward and that began in January when only five Islamic terrorists were killed and five captured. In addition 28 Islamic terrorism supporters were arrested and the bodies of two Islamic terrorists were found in the countryside along with 46 bunkers used by Islamic terrorists. Most bunkers were empty but those that were not contained 23 automatic rifles, 39 semi-automatic and single shot rifles, 1,600 rounds of rifle and pistol ammo, four rockets, two RPG launchers, two mortars, four bomb making workshops, 30 crude bombs, along with seven cell phones and other equipment. On the borders, mainly in the south, 128 smugglers were arrested and several hundred tons of food, consumer goods and fuel seized. Also intercepted were 1,301 illegal migrants, which have become a lucrative business for the smugglers. Troops following up on tips from locals are scouring the coastal hills and finding few live Islamic terrorists but lots of evidence that they used to be, but not many of them recently.
For the rest of 2017 there were more Islamic terrorists captured or coming in voluntarily, than there killed in clashes or, even more rarely, while attempting an attack. By the end of 2017 the security forces had a growing list of identified Islamic terrorists in Algeria and more people willing to report activity by any of them. There were still Islamic terrorist base areas in Mali to the south and Libya to the east but in both cases the Islamic terrorists tended to stay away from Algeria. Over the last decade Algeria had built a reputation of being a very hostile environment for Islamic terrorists.
This was made very clear in 2016. For all of 2016 125 Islamic terrorists were killed. This included fifteen ISIL members and nearly all once belonged to AQIM, which was formed in 2007 from several of the 1990s era Algerian groups. Most of these clashes took place east of the capital or in the far south near the borders of Mali, Niger and Libya. Algeria is one of the growing number of North African nations (like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt) that are defeating Islamic terrorism. Despite efforts by popular (elsewhere) Islamic terror groups to get established in Algeria the local population and security forces have successfully opposed this. In 2016 230 Islamic terrorists were arrested or surrendered. That’s an increase over 2015 as is success in finding hideouts (over 460) and arms caches (containing over 750 assault rifles, machine-guns and sniper rifles as well as over four tons of ammo and explosives) belonging to Islamic terror groups. When Islamic terrorists lose this much infrastructure and armed supporters they are in big trouble. This can be seen in the declining number of terror attacks and growing number of Islamic terrorists clashing with the security forces and losing.
Terrorized By Corrupt Bureaucrats
There are other forms of terrorism in Algeria. Thus there are growing calls for reforms in the government bureaucracy. The problem here is the corruption and mismanagement revealed when the government tried to restrict imports (because of low oil prices and shrinking foreign currency reserves). The reality was that many basic food and medical items got cut but not a lot of luxury items. This has not reached crises proportions and there is still enough press freedom (and the Internet) to publicize that is happening and at least get the government to acknowledge there is a problem.
To put this in perspective the government pledged earlier in 2017 to reverse the decline in foreign currency available to pay for imports. Foreign currency reserves fell below $100 billion recently and are expected to end the year at about $97 billion and continue falling to about $85 billion at the end of 2018. The government inability to reform (suppress corruption) the economy quickly enough to reduce vulnerability to low oil prices becomes obvious when the foreign reserve situation is reported, as they must be (to placate foreign exporters and lenders). Foreign exchange reserves, essential to pay for imports, fell to $105 billion in mid-2017. This is not a new problem because foreign currency reserves were $193 billion in mid- 2014 and even then there were calls to cut non-essential imports. The government cut its budget 14 percent in 2017 in order to get the budget deficit down to 8 percent (versus 15 percent in 2016). Even so after five more years of this the foreign currency reserves will be less of a cushion and more of a threat because of all the additional budget cuts. Most of the problem is with administration of decisions already made. Despite the problems with oil income and government reforms GDP grew about two percent this year and is headed for about four percent in 2018.
Legal Islamic Terrorism
Not all the Islamic terrorism in Algeria is illegal. The government recently ordered a Protestant church closed because some local Moslems claimed the Christians were illegally printing bibles and other Christian literature in the church. This is forbidden by Algerian law, which declares Islam the state religion and all other religions are subject to a long list of restrictions. Algerian law also demands persecution of some Islamic sects many Moslems disapprove of.
November 19, 2017: In Jijel Province (365 kilometers east of the capital) soldiers found, examined and destroyed two bomb making workshops. Apparently these were used by members of AQIM. Also found were ten shotguns, an assault rifle, lots of ammo, 22 completed bombs and components for building more bombs.
November 16, 2017: In the southwest (Adrar Province, 1.420 kilometers from the capital) soldiers patrolling along the Mali border found another batch of weapons and ammunition hidden by smugglers before movement into Mali or further north into populated areas of Algeria. This year the flow has been increasingly into Mali. But that is complicated by increased Algerian patrols along its southern borders and increased surveillance by French led counter-terror forces in northern Mali and similar areas to the east and west.
November 15, 2017: Leaders from Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria met in Egypt to update their common Libya policy. All three nations continue to vigorously (loudly and repeatedly) support a recent and unexpected peace agreement in Libya. A major reason for this July 2017 agreement was the need to avoid mass starvation in Libya. Since 2011 Libyan oil exports had shrunk and the Libyan Central Bank cash reserves are nearly gone. If peace and unity are not achieved soon no government would be able to buy and import food and other essentials. Even by Middle Eastern standards Libya was setting new records in self-destructive behavior. By 2017 more Libyans were agreeing that the situation was indeed becoming desperate and a lot more compromise was the only solution. Even with the current national compromise the tribal (Arab, Berber and black African) and religious differences (Islamic radicals versus everyone else) plus epic levels of corruption and entitlement keep peace and prosperity out of reach. At this point most Libyans will settle for survival. The neighbors (particularly Egypt, Mali, Niger, Tunisia and Algeria) back the new peace deal as do European nations. How long it will last is another matter. So far, the deal is still on track. If achieved by the end of the year or early in 2108 it would mean the first national government in Libya since 2011 and fewer worries about smuggling and Islamic terrorism coming out of Libya.
November 12, 2017: In Batna province (400 kilometers southeast of the capital) four men were arrested and charged with belonging to AQIM. These arrests were part of a larger operation that began several weeks ago that resulted in six Islamic terrorists killed and seven captured. Documents were seized and some of the captured Islamic terrorists offered information that led to the arrests today.
November 7, 2017: Morocco puts its first surveillance satellite into orbit. The 1.1 ton Mohammed VIA is based on a similar French earth observation satellite; Pléiades-HR. Another Moroccan satellite will be launched in 2018. This is part of a secret $590 million deal made with France in 2013. The new photo-satellites orbit 694 kilometers from the earth and will last at least five years. These photo satellites can take pictures day or night and make out objects 70cm (28 inches) across. By current standards that’s not very good. Back in the mid-1970s the U.S. was launching satellites with a resolution of 7 cm and current high-res satellite cameras can detect objects as small as 2 cm (less than an inch across). F0r mapping the lower res satellites are OK and in the mid-80s the U.S. was putting such satellites up that had a resolution of 70cm. These could take pictures of large areas. Morocco’s satellite photo needs can be taken care of by commercial satellites that will provide photos of whatever you want at whatever resolution you need (50 cm or less). In effect Morocco will be paying nearly a hundred million dollars a year for photo satellite images that can be obtained for a tenth of the cost from commercial services. Much of what they need can be obtained via smart phones using commercial satellite image services. This may have been a prestige thing for Morocco as well as an opportunity to generate some bribes for key officials in Morocco and France. That sort of thing has been a part of diplomacy in the Mediterranean for thousands of years but is largely illegal now.
October 29, 2017: In the east (Annaba Province) Algerian and Tunisian warships completed a week of joint training off the coast along their common maritime border. The joint training makes naval forces from both nations better able to coordinate efforts to deal with smuggling and Islamic terrorist activities along the maritime border.
October 25, 2017: In Batna province (400 kilometers southeast of the capital) a wanted Islamic terrorist was arrested.
In Bouira province (120 kilometers southeast of the capital) troops found a bomb workshop and destroyed it.
October 23, 2017: In Batna province (440 kilometers southeast of the capital) three Islamic terrorist bunkers were found and destroyed by soldiers pursuing leads. All three bunkers had food supplies and one had a bomb awaiting someone to place and detonate it.