It was another bad year for Islamic terrorism in Algeria and the security forces were finding less evidence of Islamic terrorist activity at all. During 2017 only 90 Islamic terrorists were killed in Algeria compared to 125 during 2016. Last year 70 Islamic terrorists were taken alive, 43 percent because they voluntarily turned themselves in. Compare this to the 230 Islamic terrorists were arrested or surrendered in 2016. There was a decline in weapons and other military gear found hidden around the country. These finds had been increasing until 2016, when troops reported that more and more of their finds were of gear that had been hidden away a long time ago. In 2017 there were far fewer of these discoveries and what was uncovered was even more ancient. What was happening was more Algerians no longer feared retaliation by Islamic terrorists and were willing to talk about where they had Islamic terrorists hiding stuff. Not exact locations but areas small enough for troops searching it to find the caches and crumbling bunkers.
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. In 2017 there was little evidence of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) activity and not much from AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which was formed in 2007 from several of the 1990s era Algerian groups. Despite efforts by popular (elsewhere) Islamic terror groups to get established in Algeria the local population and security forces have successfully opposed this. As has been the case since the Algerian Islamic terror groups were defeated, most Algerian Islamic terrorists have been found outside Algeria.
Despite all this experience in fighting Islamic terrorism Algeria continues to refuse to send troops to support military operations outside Algeria, particularly in Libya and Mali. One can understand the reluctance to get involved with the civil war in Libya but Mali has a large peacekeeping force composed of African troops. Algeria will not contribute.
Algeria does take sides. For example Algeria continues to side with Qatar in its feud with the other Gulf Arab oil states (and their allies, like Egypt and Israel). That means Algeria backs the UN faction in Libya while the UAE and most other Arab states back the HoR/Hiftar group. Actually Algeria was reluctant to back the UN approved government for Libya and that proved to be warranted when the Hiftar group abandoned the UN proposal and demanded that the UN come up with a more practical solution. This is a big deal for Algeria because of the long border they share with Libya. It is also a big deal for the UN, which considers Algeria the most successful North African nation when it comes to dealing with Islamic terrorism. Other nations in the region agree and Algeria regularly trains troops from other nations in counter-terrorism methods that worked in Algeria. Libya is another matter and after Hiftar rejected the UN peace plan Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia responded that they still backed the UN effort. That support is not permanent and Egypt has long supported Hiftar and still does. But the UN support includes the support of many Western donor nations who, for the moment, are not inclined to finance Hiftar. Russia, on the other hand, is, but not as generously as Western nations cam. So the situation in Libya remains violent and flexible. Algeria has done well at guarding its Libyan (and Mali) borders but is keeping its troops at home no matter what.
In an effort to halt the erosion of foreign cash reserves the government has issued a list of 900 items that are temporarily unavailable for import. The one that will hurt the most (or please the smugglers most) is cell phones, all cell phones. Some appliances and furniture items are also on the list as well as a long list of items (including high-end food items) most Algerians can’t afford. Smuggling has long been a big business in Algeria and it just got a little bigger.
The United States suspended $17 million a year in financial aid to protest Algeria voting in the UN to criticize the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This loss of aid is not a big deal. The best thing the Americans have done for Algeria lately is already having an impact; the value of shale deposits and the use of fracking to get the oil and gas out of that shale. Despite local opposition the government is going ahead to develop its abundant shale gas reserves (the third largest in the world.) 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 was found to have some of the largest shale gas deposits in the world.
In short, 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. There gas can either go to Europe via pipeline to liquefaction plants so the gas could be exported to more distant customers. 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. But the shale deposits of natural gas are needed to maintain needed supplies for local use and exports (via three underwater pipelines) to Europe.
January 26, 2018: In the east (Khenchela province) soldiers ambushed a large group of armed men and killed seven of them. Continued searches of the area led to another encounter that left another armed man shot dead. The next day two of the dead were identified as wanted Islamic terrorists.
January 24, 2018: Near the Tunisian border (Tebessa province, 650 kilometers east of the capital) soldiers found and destroyed three locally built bombs. These bombs are often used to ambush army patrols on roads or along trails near the Tunisian border. Some of these roadside bombs are rigged to go off automatically when any vehicle passes.
January 22, 2018: In the northeast (Souk Ahras Province) police arrested three Islamic terrorists near the Tunisian border. Elsewhere in the country several Islamic terrorist supporters were arrested. These people are often not Islamic terrorists themselves but are willing to provide various types of support (food, shelter, cash or special equipment).
January 20, 2018: In the east, just across the border in Tunisia (Kasserine province) Tunisian soldiers ambushed and killed two Islamic terrorists near the border. One of the dead men was a senior AQIM commander who had been sought by Algeria since the 1990s. AQIM has not been very active in Tunisia since 2016 and even less active in Algeria. The area where this incident took place has long been a favorite hiding place for AQIM and ISIL.
January 13, 2018: The army confirmed that it had purchased and received (in late 2017) Chinese built truck mounted SR5 MRL (Multiple Rocket Launcher) vehicles. The SR5 can carry and fire pods of twenty 122mm rockets or six 220mm rockets. Meanwhile Algeria is cancelling some Russian arms deals because of a shortage of available cash for such expensive imports.
January 6, 2018: In the east, just across the border in Tunisia troops ambushed a group of Jund al Khalafa Islamic terrorists and captured one of them (who was shot in the leg and abandoned as the others fled). Tunisia and Algeria alert each other when there are clashes like this so additional personnel can be sent to the border to prevent the fleeing Islamic terrorists from seeking safety by crossing the border. So far Islamic terrorists find it safer to stay in Tunisia.
December 29, 2017: The government finally agreed to recognize the Berber New Year (on January 12th) and halt local efforts to block the use of the Berber language in schools. Since 2016, when there was another outbreak of Berber protests in Tizi Ouzou (120 kilometers east of the capital) over perceived discrimination in allocation of government benefits (like housing) the government has been seeking ways to ease the tensions. Tizi Ouzou in in the largely Berber Kabylie region. The ten million Berbers of Algeria are considered the most abused in the region. While young Berbers may be particularly angry at the decades of government corruption and mismanagement they are emblematic of the growing anger among all young Algerians and a growing number of older Algerians as well.