By Brian M. Perkins, Terrorism Monitor, Volume: 18 Issue: 10, The Jamestown Foundation, 15 May 2020.
Algerian military and intelligence services are undergoing significant change as Libya continues to grapple with its civil war and terrorist violence rages across the Sahel. Algeria’s political and military structure has undergone notable reform since Abdelaziz Bouteflika was ousted in April 2019 as his successor, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has attempted to uncouple the country’s intelligence services from the presidency.
Another wave of reshuffling within the intelligence service took place in late April as Mohamed Bouzit was appointed chief of the external security directorate. Bouzit succeeds Kamel-Eddine Remili, who resigned that post just days after the dismissal and subsequent imprisonment of the head of intelligence, General Wasini Bouazza’s (al Bawaba, April 16). On May 7, as part of the government’s constitutional revision project, the Algerian presidency revealed that an amendment to Article 29 of the constitution would overturn the country’s long-standing military doctrine that curtails the armed forces’ involvement abroad (Asharq al-Awsat, May 10).
The previous version of Article 29 did not explicitly ban military intervention abroad, but it does not explicitly authorize it, and Algeria has historically avoided military interventions. The new amendments, which still need to be ratified by parliament, would set the stage for the Algerian military to engage in peacekeeping missions and the country’s “participation in the restoration of peace in the region within the framework of bilateral agreements with the concerned countries” (Algerian Press Service, May 9).
This amendment is being introduced against the backdrop of significant local and regional developments. The constitutional amendment process is taking place amid substantial changes within the country’s political-military systems and intertwined social malaise. It is also taking place at a time of deep insecurity among Algeria’s neighbors as the war in Libya rages on and jihadist violence is rising across the Sahel. Algeria has faced pressure from regional governments and France to participate in regional counter terrorism operations. At the same time, President Tebboune has repeatedly stated the Algerian government’s eagerness to elevate the country’s position both on the world and African stage, particularly as old contests with Morocco, including Western Sahara, continue to simmer.
While the previous constitution did not explicitly prevent the Algerian military’s involvement outside its borders, the new amendments will inherently codify a new military posture. This change comes alongside the creation of Algeria’s International Cooperation Agency and sends a message to other North African countries, particularly Morocco, that Algeria is eager to influence regional affairs. It is unclear when Algeria will deploy its military outside its borders for the first time following the amendment, but it will likely see the country participate alongside France and the G5 Sahel.