Foreign policy and defense
Algeria has traditionally built its foreign
policy on alliance freedom and solidarity with the third
world. In the early 2000s, relations with the US and the
EU were the focus. More recently, Algeria has taken an
active role and sought to act as a stable peace broker
in an unstable region. However, relations with Morocco
have been strained for a long time, due to the conflict
over Western Sahara.
Unrest and border threats have forced Algeria to
adjust its foreign policy and try to assume a regional
leadership role. In three neighboring countries, it has
been turbulent for a few years: Tunisia, Libya and Mali.
In the latter two cases, state power has lost control of
parts of the country. In all cases, the threat from
violent Islamists has at times been strong. The
increased security risk also applies to the Sahel belt
in other respects, that is, the states immediately south
of the Sahara. That unrest in the region also affects
Algeria became evident in an attack on a natural gas
plant in In Amenas 2013. The country now has three new
fronts with jihadist insurgency at its borders - a new
strategic reality. This is particularly evident in the
vast and heavily guarded southern Algeria where trade in
arms, drugs and people has long been ongoing.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Algeria for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Algeria highlights its own experience of dealing with
radical groups and integrating moderate Islamism as a
model, following the bloody civil war of the 1990s (see
Modern History). The argument is that neighboring states
with a similar approach, with de-radicalization and
reconciliation measures, can stop violent Islamism.
Algeria's leadership also advocates strong centralized
states and seeks to counteract disintegration, which
could lead to increased social conflicts.
Neighboring countries are causing concern
After the uprising that triggered the wave of Arab
protests and forced Tunisia's dictator Ben Ali in 2011,
algae arose when an Islamist party won the election in
the neighboring country that year. The fears turned out
to be unjustified, instead Tunisia became a somewhat
troublesome example for the authoritarian leadership in
Alger, with its rapid transition to democratic rule. The
biggest concern, however, is the violent Islamists who
are active in Tunisia, not least along the border
between the countries.
The situation in Libya creates even greater
uncertainty. When the uprising broke out in neighboring
2011, Algeria offered a sanctuary for the toppled Libyan
leader Muammar Gaddafi's widow and three of the couple's
children. However, they were forced to leave the country
in 2012 (and were granted asylum in Oman). Algeria
opposed the NATO-led intervention in Libya, citing the
risks of internal clan battles, weapons inflows and
increased jihadist attacks - and was essentially right.
Since the transitional government in Libya collapsed in
2014 - and two rival governments established in each
part of the country - Algeria has acted in a mediating
role in cooperation with the UN envoy. Algeria opposes
proposals for new military intervention from abroad and
instead seeks to contribute to reconciliation between
all parties except "terrorists". In Libya, besides
several domestic jihadist groups, there are also remains
of Islamic State (IS),
which in 2015-2016 had control over certain areas along
Mediation in Mali
When riots broke out in Mali in 2012, Gaddafi's fall
in Libya last year was a strong contributing cause.
Tuaregans who returned from Libya, together with
Islamist groups, revolted against the central government
and took control of northern Mali in a short time. As a
result, the government fell and foreign troops came to
the country. Algeria has a leading role in peacekeeping
and is working to prevent increased fragmentation of the
neighboring country. A peace agreement was reached in
2015, but the situation remains extremely unstable (see
Mali: Modern History and Mali: Current Politics).
The growing terrorist threat has led to increased
security cooperation in the region. With Mali, Niger and
Mauritania, Algeria in 2010 collaborated to counter the
al-Qaeda extremist group in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).
The idea was, among other things, to try to prevent
terrorists from seeking protection by moving across
borders. In 2013, another collaboration between the
countries was launched to support a moderate form of
Islam, among other things, by training imams (spiritual
leaders in Sunni Islam).
Conflict with Morocco
Morocco is a rival to Algeria in terms of influence
in West Africa. However, the major source of conflict
between the countries is Morocco's occupation of Western
Sahara, and Algeria's support for the Western Sahara
Liberation Front Polisario (see also Conflicts: Western
Sahara). When Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1976,
when the colonial power left Spain, tens of thousands of
Western Saharians fled to Algeria. There, Western Sahara
still lives, most in camps in the desert near the border
between the countries. According to Algerian
authorities, there are approximately 165,000 refugees in
the camps, while the UN expects around 90,000.
The Algerian regime's war on armed Islamists in the
1990s once again worsened its relationship with Morocco,
after Algeria accused Morocco of giving up its territory
to Algerian Islamists (see Modern History). The border
between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.
Despite Algeria's bitter war of liberation against
colonial power France 1954–1962, the countries have had
relatively good relations after independence. But the
fight against the militant Islamists has periodically
strained relations. Radical Algerian Islamists were
suspected during the 1990s to be behind a series of
bloody bombings in France. In 1994, members of the armed
Islamist group GIA hijacked an Air France plane. Western
European airlines then stopped flying to and from
Algeria, which was even more isolated when the GIA
threatened to kill all foreigners in the country.
Improved Western relations
When Abdelaziz Bouteflika became president in 1999,
he gradually broke the country's isolation. Airlines in
the west resumed flights to and from Algiers, and in
2000 Bouteflika visited France as the first Algerian
president in many years. In 2002, Algeria signed an
association agreement with the EU. At the same time,
more and more Algerians were arrested in Europe, accused
of terrorist activities. In 2003, French President
Jacques Chirac made his first French state visit to
Algeria after independence. France also admitted some
abuses during the liberation war. In 2007, French
President Nicolas Sarkozy made his first foreign state
visit to Algeria. The following year, the countries
signed a cooperation agreement to develop nuclear power
and to cooperate militarily and within the banking
During the 1970s, the Soviet Union exerted a strong
influence on Algeria, including as a weapons supplier.
After taking office in 1978, President Chadli Bendjedid
managed to establish good contacts with the United
States as well. During the 1990-1991 Kuwait crisis, the
Algerian government criticized both Iraq's invasion of
Kuwait and the US-led alliance's counter-attack.
Following the terrorist attacks on the United States in
2001, relations between the United States and Algeria
improved significantly. Bouteflika visited President
George W Bush in the United States three times between
2001 and 2003. From the United States, Bouteflika met
with an understanding of Algeria's long fight against
terrorism. Today, the United States mainly contributes
with training of Algerian security forces and has
conducted joint military exercises with Algeria.
China and Japan
Algeria has also been approaching Japan and
especially China. Both Asian countries have shown great
interest in investing in Algeria's oil and gas industry.
In 2011, China and Algeria signed several agreements on
increased economic cooperation.
Chinese companies with Chinese staff are behind a
number of infrastructure projects, including Alger's
newly built large mosque. The ties between the two
countries are not only strong but also old: when Algeria
fought for independence from France, China in 1958 was
the first non-Arab country to recognize a provisional
government as legitimate. Algeria has thanked for the
help not only through purchasing, but also by supporting
China in the UN.
When relations between Algeria and Morocco were
temporarily improved in the late 1980s, the two and
Libya, Mauritania and Tunisia formed the 1989 Arab
Maghreb Union (UMA). It was intended to be a "North
African EU" with free movement of goods, capital and
labor, but cooperation has been slow.
The FLN's military branch during the Freedom War
against France, ALN, was renamed after the independence
to the People's National Army. FLN's close ties to the
military are still partially in place. The image of the
army as a popular freedom army and state builder was
razed when it struck strikes and riots in 1988.
Democratization in 1989 established that the defense
would be transformed into a professional armed force and
left politics. However, the military has remained an
important part of the regime's power base, although its
political influence is strongly questioned.
Algeria has a general military duty of 18 months for
FACTS - DEFENSE
110,000 men (2017)
The air Force
14,000 men (2017)
6,000 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
5.7 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
16.1 percent (2017)