Washington DC - The United States has long been on the sidelines watching Frances’s foreign policy agenda dictates the course of events in North Africa. However, as Algeria enters a period of political uncertainty and military insecurity, the U.S. with help from allies in Europe and the Maghreb may have to take the lead in securing a civil and peaceful transition of power from the ailing President Bouteflika. If Algeria collapses the Mediterranean will smolder.
Washington DC – The United States has long been on the sidelines watching Frances’s foreign policy agenda dictates the course of events in North Africa. However, as Algeria enters a period of political uncertainty and military insecurity, the U.S. with help from allies in Europe and the Maghreb may have to take the lead in securing a civil and peaceful transition of power from the ailing President Bouteflika. If Algeria collapses the Mediterranean will smolder.
The underlying thinking behind the American approach in North Africa is that France is so entrenched in Algeria with allies, covert and open, that the United State will just be “in the way.” While in fact, French interest may be different than the Americans and therefore the US needs its own presence and policy in an important country like Algeria.
The instability in Algeria represents a clear and present danger to the United States. Major terror groups are active either within Algeria or on its borders be it with Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania or Mali. Al-Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State associates have had safe heavens in the vast Algerian and Libyan Sahara. Thus, American and Western interests will be greatly compromised if the squabbling among Algeria’s different clans continues unabated.
The behind the scene wrestling for power between the different camps in Algiers can easily escalate out of control; so it will be wise for America to deal with the situation before it is too late. President Obama immersed in the Syrian conflict must refocus some of his attention on the Maghreb.
Contrary to popular belief, France is the only key mover in Algeria. Despite the nationalistic rhetoric, Algerian elite, military and civilian has intimate economic, security and cultural ties with France. This reality makes France a part of the political and military problem as Algeria moves closer to a security impasse.
France’s colonial history and its intelligence relations with certain members of Algeria’s Armed Force (APN) and Military Intelligence (DRS) will turn Paris assets into liability once the dormant infighting within Algerian governing circles turn open and violent. Only an American involvement, which will probably be viewed as impartial, would calm the unrest.
The open struggle for power in Algeria began with the removal of the powerful DRS chief Toufik Medien. President Bouteflika clan’s decision to move on Medien was a turning point in the long running battle between the Presidency the APN on one camp and the DRS on the other. This development in itself should alarm the United States and Europe.
The arrests and jailing of Generals who held key and sensitive positions in the military and intelligence apparatus of the Algerian military during the civil war should be of great concern to the American intelligence and military establishments.
Algeria’s Prime Minister and his allies’ fall back trick of using the threat of “foreign hands conspiracy” to rally the public shouldn’t deter the American administration from conferring with allies over the future of a Post Bouteflika Algeria.
The “foreign hands conspiracy” excuse seems to run its course as Algerian youth stopped buying the government propaganda. Just like the rest of youth around the World, young people get their news form the uncensored Web where dozens of independent Europe based sites post news and analysis including up to the minute changes in the Algerian Armed Forces.
The internal strife unfolding in Algeria will eventually turn into a regional crisis as the different clans, especial the ANP and remnants of the old guard DRS, might try to create a diversion by initiating armed incursion into neighboring country. This old tactic, making a comeback thanks to Putin’s excursion in Ukraine and Syria, could easily turn North Africa, Southern Mediterranean and the Sahel into an even more dangerous place than it is today.
The United States shouldn’t accept the secretive nature of the Algerian regime as a matter of national domestic affair. A political and military power vacuums in Algeria will be a source of instability for America and its allies in the region.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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