Algeria Struggles to Address Terrorist Activity on Tunisian Border

Article Summary
Due to chaos plaguing regional countries, Algeria is unable to find a competent partner in fighting ongoing terrorist attacks.

The terrorist attack that targeted Tunisian soldiers in Jebel ech Chambi, west of the state of Kasserine on the Algerian border, raised a new security problem for the Algerian National People’s Army (ANP). The ANP finds it difficult to find a “partner” ready to fight terrorism in the neighboring eastern countries (Libya, Niger and Tunisia), due to their troubled political developments.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has openly declared its war on the Tunisian state in the operation carried out by militants on the slopes of Jebel ech Chambi, near the Algerian border. The operation was carried out in the form of an ambush, al-Qaeda’s specialty in Algeria.

Given that the environment and topography of Jebel ech Chambi are similar to the mountains of the Algerian coast, the operation was similar to the operations carried out against the ANP, where the surprise factor is usually used and where bodies of soldiers end up being disrespected, with their weapons and military garments looted. These operations are usually photographed and the photos sent to websites close to the terrorist organization.

This security transition at a site adjacent to the Algerian border places direct responsibility on ANP troops. The ANP is the most experienced in the region in confronting these kinds of criminal acts, and is on constant alert when it comes to fighting terrorism. However, these incidents will act as new elements of “attrition and depletion" against the military forces, especially since the ready partner on the other side lacks the experience and preparation to face an opponent like al-Qaeda in Tunisia. Partners might also be unconcerned about the war on terrorism, as is the case in Libya, which is beset by internal chaos, widespread manifestations of the absence of the state since the collapse of the Gadhafi regime and a problem of arms proliferation the transitional regime has been unable to address.

Thus, European reports saying that southern Libya has turned into a stronghold for terrorists fleeing the war in northern Mali cannot be dealt with lightly. Where did thousands of heavily armed fighters head to when French operations were launched? A European report says that a leader like Mokhtar Belmokhtar, also known as "Balour," headed to an area in the Libyan desert to escape the operations targeting his members in the far north-east of Mali, in which Abdul Hamid Abu Zaid was killed.

Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Ahmed Qayed Salih's visit to Illizi on July 30 falls within this context. The army has become ready for a long-term battle against an unconventional enemy who can move in border areas. Salih will also visit Constantine to make a point that the Algerian army will stop any serious attempt to structurally connect al-Qaeda to new branches in Tunisia, even though the ideological link has existed for a while.

It is also known that security coordination with Tunisia is limited to information exchange; the army is not involved in any direct military coordination with neighboring countries. This explains the construction of new watchtowers, the digging of trenches along the eastern line in the states of Tebessa, Al-Wadi, Souk Ahras and Illizi, in addition to the measures being taken against the smuggling of fuel. There is a direct economic motive behind these measures, but they may also have a security aim: to target the logistical means employed by the terrorist groups in moving and operating and in trade with smuggling networks.

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Found in: tunisia, terrorism, mokhtar belmokhtar, algeria, al-qaeda
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