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Algeria: Is President Tebboune preparing to send troops abroad?

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Thursday, 17 June 2021 18:33

Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune during an interview with Al-Jazeera on 8 June 2021 © AFP

During recent statements made on Libya and Mali, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hinted that Algerian troops may be sent abroad.

During an interview with Al-Jazeera‘s special envoy on 8 June, Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune said he welcomed the fact that Algeria had been heard, especially during Haftar’s 2019 offensive against the Libyan capital.

He was responding to a question on Libya, in relation to the Algerian presidency’s declaration that “Tripoli is a red line.” Tebboune even indicated that Algeria was ready to intervene “in one way or another” in Libya.

A small blow

According to the Algerian president, Tripoli was about to become the “first Arab and Maghrebian capital occupied by mercenaries.” This was how Tebboune justified supporting Turkey – and its Qatari ally – whose intervention in Libya saved the Sarraj government.

Some observers believe that Tebboune’s statement on Libya is a public opinion strategy to prepare Algerians for an external army operation, after several decades of having a non-intervention policy.

The Algerian president’s stance is opposite to that of several powers, such as Russia and the United Arab Emirates (which support Haftar), that are nevertheless important partners of Algiers, both economically and politically.

In fact, by agreeing to external military interventions, the head of state has struck a small blow against one of the country’s diplomacy and army dogmas. All the more so as the November 2020 constitutional reform provides for the possibility of external commitments.

During an interview on 3 June for the French magazine Le Point, Tebboune had another outburst, this time about Mali. He said an Algerian military intervention in North Mali “is not the solution”, but provided assurances that his country would “never let the northern part of Mali become a sanctuary for terrorists”, even less so if this were to result in “the country becoming partitioned.”

This was a strong message to all the groups (which have been called upon to fall in line) that did not sign the Algiers Accords. This is especially since Tebboune considers the G5 Sahel to be ineffective on the military level.

Algiers may well decide to opt for such a solution, given the fact that France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced the probable partial withdrawal of French troops from northern Mali and the end of the Barkhane operation in the Sahel on 11 June.

Several options in Mali

Coincidentally, the French announcement came on the eve of Algeria’s legislative elections under a new constitution, which allows parliamentarians to discuss the possibility of sending troops abroad, once the president has issued a formal proposal.

According to a military source, Algeria has several options, should it decide to send its troops abroad.

  • One option is to integrate them with Minusma in North Mali, despite its very limited prerogatives in terms of right of action and rules of engagement.
  • Another option is to participate in a new international coalition, which is currently being formed.
  • Finally, Algeria could revive the Comité d’Etat-Major Opérationnel Conjoint (Cemoc) and create a force bringing together the region’s armies, to combat terrorism in North Mali and deal with the Islamic state’s lasting presence in the Tri-border region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger).

In Algiers, some observers believe that Tebboune’s statement on Libya is a public opinion strategy to prepare Algerians for an external army operation, after several decades of having a non-intervention policy.

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