Friday, 20 June 2014

Algerian army "invades Libya"

Algerian army "invades Libya"

For the last two weeks we have been establishing whether or not Algerian troops have “invaded” Libya as was reported in the London Times on 30 May and in Algeria’s El Watan newspaper on 6 June. Last week, we said that we were “inclined to believe that that some, or even a large part, of these forces (5,000) have moved into Libya, possibly to secure a “cordon sanitaire” on the Libya side of the frontier by taking control of water holes and other strategic points, in order to ensure that there is no penetration of Libyan-based “terrorist” elements into Algeria.”

This week we received direct, personal confirmation from France’s former Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, that “the Algerian army has invaded Libya”. We have also received confirmation from other sources. Not only have these forces, believed to be at least 5,000 strong and backed up by air power, established, as we suggested last week, a “cordon sanitaire” on the Libyan side of the frontier, but it is widely believed that they have launched strikes deep into Libya against armed groups (generally referred to as “terrorists” or “jihadists”) that have set up base in southern Libya over the last year or so.

As the Algerian constitution prohibits its forces from taking part in military action outside its own territory, the government will almost certainly continue to deny that this operation is taking place, as it has done so far. For instance, on 10 June, Prime Minister Sellal told the Senate that the army will not undertake any operation outside Algerian territory, a principle, he said, that was enshrined in the constitution.

Besides the constitutional issue, many Algerians would find it totally unacceptable that its forces were engaged in concert with those of France and the US, especially in another Muslim country.

Thus, the longer the Libyan operation goes on, the more likely we are to hear the government talking about how Algeria’s borders are being threatened by terrorists and justifying troop movements and the like in the border areas. There have been several such articles in the Algerian media this week. For example, on 18 June it was reported that terrorists in Tunisia, Libya and Mali were trying to carry out attacks on Algeria. The Echorouk daily newspaper said that “The terrorist threat doesn’t stop planning attacks to sabotage Algeria’s security. To this end, Algeria, with its combined forces, expresses its determination to clean up its territory of terrorists.”

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

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