Algeria could be west Africa's 'anti-terrorist gendarme'

US, France pushing for Algeria action in wake of Libya crisis

20 May, 20:05

    (by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 20 - After being a detached onlooker on area turbulence for some years, and driven perhaps by the explosion of the Libyan crisis, Algeria now seems poised to take on the role of 'Magreb gendarme', as it has been asked to do by the United States and, most recently, France.

    Above and beyond its muscular foreign policy culminating with its intervention in Mali, the latter appears to have realized that the fight against Islamic terrorism cannot be carried out without local interpreters.

    Enter Algeria, which has for decades been engaged in battle with a bloodthirsty domestic Islamic terrorist movement: exploding in the early 1990s, it has never been definitively rooted out, and the fight is being carried out in the silence of scarcely populated areas, before few eyewitnesses.

    Engaged in what is a de facto war against an enemy who takes no prisoners, elite Algerian army units are meeting fire with fire: as Islamic militias reportedly cut the throats of soldiers wounded in their ambushes on military convoys, so the Algerian army, in the terse language of its official communiques on the fate of captured guerrillas, ''renders them harmless''.

    A pillar of the power structure and therefore the recipient of vast financial resources for equipment and training, its capabilities honed by decades of anti-insurgency, the Algerian military has become a war machine the West hopes will soon step into the fray in the battle against Islamic terrorism outside its own borders. The case of Libya could tip the balance, for Islamic militias there have wrested control of vast portions of the country from a weak central government, welding themselves to various groups across borders and becoming a concrete, perhaps imminent threat that has long since ceased to be just a hypothetical scenario.

    ''We trust in Algeria's capacity to ensure its own security and also in its capacity to take on a leadership role, helping other countries in the region do the same'', US Ambassador to Algeria Henry S. Ensher has said.

    French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has just touched down in Algiers, where both sides are expected to discuss further military cooperation to contain Islamic terrorist advances in the Sahel region between southern Libya, northern Chad and northern Niger as well as in northern Mali: France on Tuesday announced it has delayed plans to redeploy its soldiers away from its SERVAL operation after a fresh outbreak of violence there.

    The sole country in the continent armed with a mighty anti-terrorism intelligence network that includes a DNA database, Algeria could be a powerful ally for the West in the battle against international Islamic militias, which have so far carefully avoided falling into the trap of provoking Algeria's ire. (ANSAmed).

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