Algeria: Current Issues [November 22, 2010]   [open pdf - 252KB]

"The focus of this report is Algeria, a country in North Africa that is increasingly important for U.S. efforts to counter international terrorism as a key partner in the fight against Al Qaeda linked groups. As an energy producer, it also is a significant source of natural gas for the United States and not a major recipient of U.S. aid. The overall domestic situation in Algeria remains relatively stable. An elected president dominates the political system, but the military, the most significant political force since independence in 1962, still is viewed as the ultimate arbiter of who fills the office. It backed Abdelaziz Bouteflika for the presidency in 1999. He was reelected for a third term in April 2009 and has no clear successor. The voice of the military has been muted publicly since Bouteflika was first selected, but may be heard during presidential succession. Low voter turnout in the May 2007 parliamentary election may have reflected general lack of public faith in the political system as well as common knowledge that the legislature is weak. Authorities specifically boasted of a higher turnout in the 2009 presidential election. The major domestic problem is terrorism, which has spread beyond Algeria's borders. It persists at home while Algerian terrorists operate across the southern border in the Sahel and are linked to terrorism abroad. The U.S. State Department lists two Algerian groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). The more notorious and active is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2006 and may increasingly be described as a criminal-terrorist mutation. Algeria, as the dominant economic and military power in the region, has attempted to take the lead in developing a regional approach to counterterrorism in the Sahel. In addition to addressing the threat, Algiers seeks to prevent foreign, that is, French and U.S., intervention justified by the need to combat terrorists. However, it does welcome other kinds of outside support for the effort.The United States has increasingly viewed the government of Algeria as an important partner in counterterrorism and the fight against Al Qaeda-linked groups in North Africa. The Algerian economy is largely based on hydrocarbons, and the country is a significant source of natural gas for the United States and Europe. Algeria receives little development assistance from the United States, but its security forces benefit from U.S. security assistance and participation in bilateral and regional military cooperation programs. Algeria's relative stability, always tenuous, has most recently been challenged by a series of riots, strikes, and popular demonstrations that have occurred since early January 2011."

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CRS Report for Congress, RS21532
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