April 21, 2009
Maghreb, Mirages of Ungovernable Somalia on the Atlantic bis
Insofar as this gets out of the usual Middle Eastern centred blithering on, perhaps a return to the issue of Ungovernable Spaces is worth another post.
FT - Algerian militants strike from eyries
The group seems to have since decided to restrict itself to military and security targets, although civilians often end up as collateral damage. Experts believe the change in tactics could mean the group has been weakened or that it has decided to try to spare civilians to avoid alienating the population.Emphasis added.
“The suicide bombings tarnished them in the eyes of the people,” says Hmida Layachi, a newspaper editor and expert on Algeria’s Islamist groups. “They were losing the image that they were only fighting the rulers so they started avoiding operations in Algiers and other big cities.”
He believes there are 800 to 1,200 militants in the mountains of central and eastern Algeria in comparison with an estimated 40,000 armed insurgents during the 1990s.
AQIM also has groups in the Sahara desert in the south of the country. These have been roaming the borders with neighbouring countries, recruiting and training militants from Mauretania, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. The groups in the desert are small,but perform a crucial function by ensuring that a smuggled weapons and explosives reach their colleagues in the north.
A US military official says: “Right now if it weren’t for the logistic supply from southern Algeria and northern Mali, the group would be on its last leg.
This may or may not be true (I would be inclined to think it has some degree of truth in that the vast spaces of the Sahara are indeed hard to control and generally not actually worth controlling), but it certainly is a perception with no small degree of policy driving value.
Insofar as the Somali pirating has reminded EU & North American policy makers how very, very annoying ungoverned places can be, and how much paranoid fear of Al Qaeda drives foreign policy, I would hazard the opinion this sort of activity will have outsized impact on EU & NA engagement with the Maghreb and the Sahel.
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The bolded paragraph is actually very interesting. Their southern/Saharan wing just released a bunch of hostages, I assume for a pretty ransom.
On the other hand, I think one should remember that Algerian groups were doing OK in Kabylie already before they began any serious involvement in kidnapping and smuggling down south. But of course their situation could be so much worse now that they rely on that money more.
Posted by: alle at April 23, 2009 05:42 AM