August 11, 2017:
Algeria is, along with Tunisia and Egypt vigorously (loudly and repeatedly) supporting an unexpected peace agreement in Libya. A major reason for this July agreement was the need to avoid mass starvation in Libya. Since 2011 oil exports had shrunk and the Central Bank cash reserves are nearly gone. If peace and unity were not achieved soon no government would be able to buy and import food and other essentials. Even by Middle Eastern standards Libya was setting a 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 in the next few months it would mean the first national government in Libya since 2011 and fewer worries about smuggling and Islamic terrorism coming out of Libya.
Is It Safe?
A month after Britain dropped its warning about visiting Tunisia (because of a 2015 terror attack that killed 38 foreign tourists, most of them British) travel agents in Britain and the rest of Europe report that requests for Tunisian trips are returning to 2015 levels. Britain did maintain a warning to avoid areas that local governments describe as “high risk”. All North African countries have these areas although Algeria and Morocco have the fewest of them. In fact, international surveys find that two of the three safest nations in Africa are Algeria and Morocco (the other is Rwanda).
Algeria is also unique in that it had the least ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) activity of any country in the region. This is largely due to the still vivid memories of the Islamic terrorist uprising during the 1990s that left over 200,000 dead. Thus while thousands of young men from Tunisia, Libya and Morocco went off to join ISIL only about 200 came from Algeria. That said, there were already thousands of former (or still active) Algerian Islamic terrorists in exile (since the 1990s) throughout the West as well as the Middle East. ISIL did make a major effort to get established in Algeria but that apparently ended in 2016 because Algerian security forces (with a lot of help from the public) killed or arrested over 300 ISIL members and active supporters. So far this year it has been difficult to detect much ISIL presence in Algeria. There has been some ISIL activity but no attacks.
The major problem for Algerians, aside from the benign dictatorship and corruption, is the low prices Algeria gets for its oil and natural gas. Thanks to fracking and other technological marvels and reforms the world oil price is not likely to rise to pre-2013 levels (more than twice what it is now) for some time. Many young (and often unemployed) Algerians see this as a good thing because it forces the government to make some permanent economic changes just to survive. Although these needed changes are happening it is with some reluctance (and resistance) from the bureaucracy.
August 8, 2017: In the east, just across the border in Tunisia (Kasserine province) Tunisian soldiers ambushed and killed two wanted Islamic terrorists near their rural hideout. One of the dead men was a senior AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) commander who had been sought for years.
There was another Islamic terror attack in France (six soldiers wounded) and the attacker, captured alive, was Algerian. He was an illegal migrant in the process of being deported. Police are seeking any connections with Islamic terrorist groups. Algeria and France have a long-standing information sharing agreement for situations like this.
August 1, 2017: In Batna province (500 kilometers southeast of the capital) AQIM gunmen clashed with troops and killed two soldiers in a brief gun battle.
July 31, 2017: West of the capital (Tipaza province) troops conducted a week long operation to dismantle a local pro-ISIL group. There were two gun battles that left eight Islamic terrorists dead. This group was led by a former al Qaeda member who had been convicted of Islamic terrorism in France over a decade ago.
July 27, 2017: Some 70 kilometers west of the capital police arrested three ISIL suspects who were apparently involved in a planned attack. The police raid also seized lots of documents detailing planned ISIL operations in Algeria. One of those arrested had connections with members of an ISIL group in France composed largely of Algerians who carried out a 2015 attack in Paris that left one policeman and four civilians dead.
July 15, 2017: The Palestinian Islamic terror group, Hamas, which controls Gaza, admitted that it had asked Algeria for permission to open an office in Algeria to provide a sanctuary for some of their senior leaders. Most Arab states, as well as the West, agree that Hamas is an Islamic terrorist organization. Algerians used to overlook that but things changed. As recently as 2009 Hamas was popular with many Algerians and open public support was common. Algerians still support the Palestinian people but Palestinian governments, especially Hamas, are another matter. The Algerian government has other reasons to want Hamas to stay away. This is partly because large, usually unauthorized demonstrations by young Algerians in support of Hamas tend to turn into anti-government demonstrations. Since 2009 Algerian attitudes have shifted and most young Algerians now agree with the rest of the world that Hamas is indeed just another Islamic terror group that wants to establish religious dictatorships and impose poverty and strict lifestyle rules on most everyone they can get to. Hamas had recently been expelled from Qatar, and before that from Syria. The Algerian government hoped Hamas would take the hint when their application to set up shop in Algeria was politely ignored. True to form Hamas is trying to bully Algeria (with implications that Algeria is not sufficiently anti-Semitic) into allowing Hamas in. It is still unclear if the government will formally give Hamas an answer or simply continue to ignore them.