Could Algeria soon send troops from its army, the pillar of the regime, to join peace-keeping missions led by the United Nations or African Union? President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has urged a constitutional change that would allow deployments abroad, signalling a departure from a military doctrine that has barred interventions outside national borders.
The proposal by a government under continued pressure from a pro-democracy movement has sparked concerns about ending a cherished tradition of non-intervention and becoming embroiled in foreign conflicts. It could also awaken a regional military giant, the biggest armed forces in North Africa’s French-speaking Maghreb region.
Algeria National People’s Army (ANP) has over 467,000 men — 130,000 active troops, 187,200 paramilitaries and 150,000 reservists — says the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Defence spending came to $9.6 billion in 2018, or 5.3 percent of gross domestic product, the highest ratio in Africa, according to the Stockholm nternational Peace Research Institute.
The reform, proposed in May, comes as a bloody civil war rages in Libya, with which Algeria shares a nearly 1,000 kilometre (about 600 mile) border. Mohamed Laagab, a presidency official, has pointed to the “presence of terrorist groups, foreign armies and mercenaries in neighbouring countries”. “The defence and the preservation of the stability and security of the country and its sovereignty can sometimes be undertaken outside its borders,” he said.
Turmoil and instability also threaten Algeria’s southern flank, in Niger and in Mali, where Algiers acted as a mediator in 2014-2015 between Bamako and armed rebel groups in northern Mali. Algeria, traditionally an ally of Russia, has also been forming ties with NATO since the 2000s, especially in the context of fighting Islamist militancy. The draft amendment plan was published in early May, weeks before the Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel, head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed by French troops in northern Mali, near the Algerian border.
Commenting on the killing, Algiers said at the time the fight against terrorism was the “responsibility” of the international community. The amendment would give Tebboune, who is also the defence minister and supreme commander of the armed forces, the right to send troops on peacekeeping missions, provided these are backed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority. […]
Algerische Truppen im Sahel?