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Algeria/France: Saïd Chengriha’s secret meeting with Paris on the Sahel’s security

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Friday, 18 June 2021 10:25

Algeria’s army chief of staff Said Chengriha attends President Abdelmajid Tebboune’s inauguration ceremony in Algiers on 19 December 2019. Fateh Guidoum/AP/SIPA

Saïd Chengriha, head of the Algerian army, has gone to Paris to discuss the Sahel’s new security situation, nearly a week after France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of Operation Barkhane.

Said Chengriha, the Algerian army’s chief of staff, will be in Paris for several days as part of a “secret” mission, according to our information.

It has been nearly a week since France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of Operation Barkhane. As such, the head of the Algerian army’s objective is to discuss the Sahel’s new security situation with the French authorities as well as the new role that Algeria will play.

Since the November 2020 constitutional reform, the Algerian parliament has been able to discuss sending troops abroad, once the president issues a formal proposal.

Prior to this reform, non-intervention outside national borders had been one of the Algerian army’s dogmas.

In early June, during an interview with Al-Jazeera, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune confirmed that the People’s National Army (PNA) could have been ready to intervene in Libya during Khalifa Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli, between 2019 and 2020.

In January 2020, the Algerian presidency had stated that capturing this city was “a red line not to be crossed.” The marshal was eventually forced to withdraw from Tripolitania in the summer of 2020, after a series of setbacks.

Algeria is also concerned about Mali’s instability and has strongly criticised the practice of paying ransoms to jihadist groups in the northern part of the country, as well as the release of hundreds of jihadists in exchange for two hostages: Soumaïla Cissé and Sophie Petronin. According to Algiers, some of these jihadist groups have penetrated Algerian territory and threaten its national security.

In an interview with RFI on 15 June, Ammar Belhimer, Algeria’s minister of communication and government spokesperson, addressed the issue of the Barkhane mission coming to an end, noting that “the Sahel is plagued with more threats now than at the start of the operation.”

He also questioned Algeria’s approach to the Sahel crisis, by asking: “Shouldn’t we have consolidated the local state structures and entities at the time, by providing military, security and logistical support to their armies and security forces (…)?”

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