Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Algeria, and its volatile neighbors…

Posted by vmsalama on January 20, 2013

While Algeria has fallen below the radar of the US government for quite some time, it has been a growing concern for many countries in Europe — particularly France, which has heavy interests — financial and otherwise — in the North African nation. I had the pleasure of visiting Algeria last summer during their parliamentary elections. During my visit, I had quite a number of discussions with people about the growing influence of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Meghrib — particularly as law in order in neighboring Mali deteriorated. Most security officials there felt that Algeria is highly skilled at handling the problem, especially since it had experience dealing with extremism during its brutal civil war in the 1990s. I remember visiting Berber villages some two hours outside the capital. Many of them still remain without power since the days of the civil war, because the government suspected those villages of being safe houses for many extremist groups.

The recent hostage crisis will undoubtedly catapult Algeria back on the international stage as a potential hotspot for extremism. the vast and hidden pockets of the Sahara Desert are a growing concern for security experts who question whether local governments have what it takes to fight extremism (some even speculate that senior members in many of these groups have contacts within the governments of countries in which they operate). Algeria’s government, traditionally very reluctant to cooperation on issues relating to its security, must work with its neighbors to share intelligence and resources to put down the rise of extremism. With increasing volatility along its borders with Mali and Libya, it is opening itself up to a massive problem. This latest incident in Illizi was only the beginning.

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