Algeria: End Times All Around

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July 25, 2016: 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. So far in 2016 surrenders of wanted Islamic terrorists are increasing as is discovery of hideouts and arms caches 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. For example, during all of 2015 security forces killed 157 Islamic terrorists. So far this year counter-terror operations have killed about 110 armed and hostile Islamic terrorists. Over twenty percent were killed in June. Only about ten ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) members have been killed this year and the majority belonged to AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which was formed in 2007 from several of the 1990s era Algerian groups. AQIM now operates throughout northern and west-central Africa. Because AQIM leadership still contains a lot of Algerians the Algerian government has been helpful to African nations where AQIM is operating. AQIM now spends most of its time smuggling drugs, people and whatever else pays. They still carry out some terror attacks, if only to remain competitive with ISIL, which is trying to displace (or absorb) AQIM and other Islamic terrorist groups in Africa. That is not working out either.

In The End It Is All About Economics

In 2013, before the price of oil fell over 70 percent, Oil and gas exports accounted for 30 percent of GDP, 95 percent of exports and provided enough income to cover 60 percent of the government budget. This brought big changes to Algeria. The oil price decline continues and Algerian oil income fell 41 percent (to $35.7 billion) in 2015. The government has been largely successful in cutting the budget and finding additional sources of income to cope with this. But these solutions are only temporary because they depend on drawing from foreign exchange reserves (needed to pay for imports, especially food) each year. These reserves were built up (to about $200 billion) before 2013. In 2015 these reserves fell 22 percent to $143 billion. This year efforts are being made to reduce reserves only about ten percent. But with oil prices still expected to decline a bit foreign exchange reserves will decline nearly 20 percent. Current estimates are that the foreign exchange reserves can be drawn on for another six years. After that severe cuts will have to be made and there will be much unrest.

Meanwhile the cash crises makes more of those in power (from the ruling clans) interested in some fundamental reforms that will curb the corruption permanently in order to sustain economic growth. This means the current ruling families will have to surrender a lot of power and income. As long as the low oil prices persist that is seen as the only way to survive the mess. Most government officials agree that the old ways will have to change if the economy is to make up for the lost oil income. At the same time the government has become less tolerant of dissent. Peaceful demonstrators are increasing subject to arrest (on false charges) and they makes people angrier. The ruling clans are not all in agreement that reform is the long-term solution to anything and for the moment that means resist all public criticism.

The basic problem is that Algeria is still a corrupt police state. There are constant reminders of that. For example the government recently sentenced a journalist to two years in prison for criticizing Abdelaziz Bouteflika (the notoriously corrupt president of Algeria since 1999) on Facebook. Lawyers pointed out that this was not illegal but the government wanted to discourage Internet based criticism by people who live or visit Algeria. In this case the victim actually lives and posts on the Internet from London and was arrested in late June when he came to Algeria to visit family.

The government has been particularly aggressive going after critics in the last year. This includes senior officials (often retired) who have gone public with their support for reforms and action on the corruption in the government. In 2015 this led to the arrest of several senior military commanders who had gone public with their opposition to corruption. One of them, a retired general who is dying of cancer, was recently released from jail to await his trial (for whatever offenses the government can invent). These military critics are national heroes because they were key leaders during the 1990s war with Islamic terrorists. The government is not having much success in depicting these men as ungrateful traitors. Most Algerians know what is going on here not matter how hard the government tries to spin it in another direction. Thus it came as no surprise that a court (apparently following instructions from frightened politicians) recently ruled that Issad Rebrab could not buy a popular newspaper (with the largest circulation in the country) and its affiliated TV channel. Rebrab is a self-made billionaire who owns numerous enterprises in Algeria and France. Rebrab is one of the ten wealthiest businessman in Africa and long a critic of the corrupt Bouteflika clan.

The government has become more obvious and energetic in its efforts to shut down mass media (especially radio or TV stations) that spends too much time covering the various corrupt scams the wealthy and well-connected can still get away with. Officially the government is addressing the corruption problem but what is noticed most are efforts to suppress discussions of the corruption that still flourishes. The Bouteflika clan is not stupid and has been trying to improve the economy but that has proved difficult when so many members (and friends) of the Bouteflika clan have to be taken care of financially. Officially all the scams the Bouteflika clan have carried out are legal but even many judges and lawyers disagree although few will go public with this unless they flee the country. The last thing the Bouteflikas’ want is a self-made and popular businessman like Rebrab to gain control of the largest newspaper and TV channel in the country and start spreading the truth. Rebrab has the lawyers, cash and friends to block government efforts to silence him and this is a quiet revolution that appears to be just getting started.

July 22, 2016: In Boumerdes province (55 kilometers east of the capital) troops encountered and killed a known Islamic terrorist who was armed with an AK-47 and a grenade. Further east (in Jijel Province 365 kilometers from the capital) two Islamic terrorist surrendered largely because of family pressure. The two brothers had become Islamic terrorists in the 1990s and recently belonged to AQIM and ISIL. They were hiding out in Algeria among family, who convinced them it was time to give it up. The government has encouraged this with a series of amnesty offers.

Foreign workers are returning the Salah gas plant after they left because of an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) attack in March. All this took place near Krechba (1,200 kilometers south of the capital) when Islamic terrorists fired two RPG shells at the Salah natural gas plant but did no damage. The foreign companies running the plant did, however, withdraw their personnel until they could be assured that threat was not going to get worse. The facility, which employs 600 people (90 percent of them Algerians), was temporarily shut. The foreigners are largely technical experts needed to find and open new gas deposits. AQIM took credit for the attack which employed at least one RPG launcher. The RPG was apparently fired several hundred meters from the sprawling facility. RPGs are not very accurate at that distance and the security around the plant apparently prevented the attackers from getting any closer. Security forces eventually caught the attackers.

July 21, 2016: In the southwest (Adrar Province, 1.500 kilometers from the capital) soldiers found an arms cache with nine AK-47s, several other rifles, a rocket launcher and nearly 500 rounds of ammo.

July 13, 2016: In the southwest (Adrar Province, 1.500 kilometers from the capital) soldiers found an arms cache with three AK-47s and nearly 2,000 rounds of ammo (mostly for the AK-47).

July 12, 2016: In Tizi Ouzou (120 kilometers east of the capital) soldiers found and disabled a homemade bomb.

July 8, 2016: In Jijel Province (365 kilometers east of the capital) soldiers encountered and killed an Islamic terrorist who was later identified as a known Islamic terrorist who had been active since at least 2006.

 

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