18 January 2013, 17:59

Mali crisis spilling over to Algeria?

Mali crisis spilling over to Algeria?
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Jean Pierre Darnis, Deputy Director of the Security and Defense Program at Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome in Italy, comments on the possible link between the Mali war and the unrest in Algeria.

It looks like the situation in Mali is spilling over to Algeria, doesn’t it?

I don’t know yes or not. There is a correspondence between the so-called terroristic movement in the north of Mali and this action in Algeria because some members of these terroristic networks in Mali are an expression of the Salafist terrorists which were born in a way in Algeria in the 1990s during what we could call the Algerian Civil War. So, yes, there is a willing from the terrorists on the Sahel area where the borders are extremely open in a way, or difficult to control by the states, specifically by Algerian forces, to extend this conflict and to globalize it and they are doing it on the scene. But it is somehow different from the specific problem of Mali and of the Tuareg in Mali and the government in Mali which is another scenario. I mean those two things are linked on one side, but are different on another side.

Whereas Algeria used to be regarded as a single country, somehow immune to the Arab Spring, what are the sensitive points, the sensitive sides in the situation in that country that in fact could serve as a catalyst for the unrest?

For Algiers the situation is quite tricky because as I told you, Algiers knows well some of these terrorists, as they are some of our enemies because some of them are Algerians, Algerian Salafists, they are the Salafist Group for Predication, a side which was transformed then in al-Qaeda Maghreb, AKMI. So, Algiers knows those people. But Algiers also knows the Tuaregs, and tried diplomatic negotiations with Tuaregs, you know, the open door with Tuaregs which have some indication in the north of Mali. Furthermore, some experts have shown that Algiers refueled these people, and when I say “refuel” I’m really speaking about gas, they move with pickups and get the oil from Algeria. So, all these little indicators show that Algiers is the kind of an open way, this is why Algiers until a few days was more on a diplomatic efforts, was trying to set up some conference and to find the diplomatic solution. Nevertheless, the attack of northern Mali terrorists, if you want to call them like that, to the south of Mali triggered the action of France, and put Algiers’ diplomatic effort in a corner. This is why Algeria then opened its sky for the French aviation. For the first time since the colonization war, Algiers has authorized French fighters Rafale to penetrate its space to conduct its action. It is somehow a detail that hasn’t been confirmed by French Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Fabius and Algiers didn’t comment, and this is something that has been discussed in Algerian press apparently in the last days because France used to be the enemy and now Algiers finds itself in a way obliged to choose its side and I think today’s action against an Algerian oil plant, if you want, is going also to put Algeria in another level and Algeria is going to have to cooperate with occidental forces to fight against those multiple and multi-assets terrorists in the Sahel area.

Doesn’t it make Algeria somehow more vulnerable? I mean, if we look at the example of Pakistan, its cooperation with the US in the situation in Afghanistan made it extremely vulnerable, a target for their inner Islamic opposition, does Algeria have a similar Islamic opposition inside its own country?

Yes, I mean that is for sure a risk and that is a reality, and when Islamist, I would say, moderate party won the election in Algeria in the 1990s, then the power, the military power cancelled the election and that was a main trigger to what became the radicalization of Islamism and Salafists in Algeria and then terrorists, which means what we call the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s. So, for sure, then Algerian power in the year of 2000 more or less maintained its basis between the army and it reduced the wealth to cope with this situation, but still there is this inside political trend, this is a very touchy question of Islamists in Algeria and their political organization. For sure, this is a calculation made by terrorists when they attacked Algeria because Sahel area, the desert area is very difficult to control for everybody, so they can hide and seek between Algeria, Niger and Mali. And then they attacked Algeria because they want to impress and they want people to believe that the Algerian power is with the French, the US and whatever the reality and that they are the bad guys to be cancelled. So, that is a really touchy issue and for sure there is a risk. I don’t know if it is what we can call Pakistan-like risk but there is a risk in the balance of the Algerian regime and not only there is a need of a solution on the military side and for sure France started solution but also there is a need of more advanced security and I would say democracy for the area, and this also includes Algeria.

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