Algeria: Current Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
U.S.-Algerian ties have grown over the past decade as the United States has come to view Algeria as a key partner in countering Al Qaeda-linked groups in North and West Africa. Algeria is also a significant source of petroleum for the United States and of natural gas for Europe, and its energy sector is a destination for U.S. investment. Congress appropriates and oversees small amounts of foreign aid and reviews notifications of arms sales. Algerian security forces also benefit from U.S. cooperation programs. Obama Administration officials have stated a desire to deepen and broaden bilateral ties, including in the aftermath of a four-day terrorist hostage seizure at a natural gas compound in southeastern Algeria in January 2013, in which three Americans were killed. The attack highlighted the challenges the United States faces in advancing and protecting its interests in an increasingly volatile region.
FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters
Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.
Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.
The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.
Source: Energy Information Administration
Algeria is the largest natural gas producer and second largest oil producer, after Nigeria, in Africa. It became a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1969, shortly after it began oil production in 1958. Currently, the country is heavily reliant on its hydrocarbon sector, which accounted for almost 70 percent of government budget revenue and grants and about 98 percent of export earnings in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund.
In recent years, crude oil production has been stagnant, while natural gas production has gradually declined, because new production and infrastructure projects have repeatedly been delayed. Additionally, in the last three licensing rounds there has been limited interest from investors to undertake new oil and gas projects under the government’s current terms. As a result, the Algerian parliament recently approved amendments to the current hydrocarbon law and introduced fiscal incentives to entice foreign companies to take on new ventures, particularly exploration in offshore areas and in areas onshore that contain shale resources.
The recent militant attack on the In Amenas gas facility prompted security concerns about operating in Algeria’s remote areas, particularly in the south. Any major disruption to Algeria’s hydrocarbon production would not only be detrimental to the local economy but, depending on the scale of lost production, could affect world oil prices. Also, since Algeria is the fourth largest natural gas supplier to Europe, unplanned cuts to natural gas output could affect some European countries. Natural gas and oil account for almost all of Algeria’s total energy consumption, and the country consumes very small amounts of hydro power, coal, and traditional biomass.
Source: RAND Corporation
This work examines what happened in April of 1961, when the French government was about to conduct the fourth of a series of nuclear tests in the Sahara. Four French Army generals, unhappy that de Gaulle was willing to support Algerian independence, staged a coup to keep Algeria as a French colony. The nuclear test was conducted a few days ahead of schedule — it was not successful — and speculation ever since has been that the test was moved up to keep the weapon out of the rebel generals’ hands.
While there is evidence that one of the generals contacted the officer who was in charge of the tests to try to delay them, Jenkins concludes that the generals really never had a plan in place to seize the weapon and that the French government didn’t want to delay the test. At the time it happened, the world viewed it as an internal, French problem.
The second, shorter part of the book compares the 1961 events to what might happen today if the military in Pakistan or North Korea splintered, and a rebel group got their hands on those countries’ nuclear materials. Jenkins contends that such a scenario today would clearly be an international incident, that neither Pakistan nor North Korea would want any foreign intervention, and that the United States "might not be the only first responder."
Two additional short essays by Dr. Stephen J. Lukasik and Constantin Melnik, a security assistant to the French prime minister in 1961, also review what happened in 1961.
Travel Warning: Algeria
Source: U.S. Department of State
The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Algeria. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Algeria dated March 16, 2011 to update information on the current security situation in Algeria and the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate information on security incidents and recommendations on security awareness.
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to Algeria to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety. Terrorist attacks, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes occur regularly, particularly in rural areas such as the Kabylie region of the country. The use of suicide bomb attacks, particularly vehicle-borne attacks, emerged as a terrorist tactic in Algeria, including in the capital, beginning in 2007. The group that claimed credit for the December 11, 2007 suicide car-bomb attacks in Algiers has pledged more attacks against foreign targets and specifically against U.S. targets. The same group is believed to operate in southern Algeria and to be linked to the kidnapping in February 2011 of a western tourist in the southeast, near the Nigerian border. This regional kidnapping threat was noted in the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution dated July 26, 2011.
The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid overland travel in Algeria. U.S. citizens who reside or travel in Algeria should take prudent personal security measures to include stocking adequate reserves of medicine, food, and water for use during an emergency. Additionally, sporadic episodes of civil unrest have been known to occur, such as the riots in Algiers and many other cities from January 2011 to the present. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times. Visitors to Algeria are advised to stay only in hotels where adequate security is provided. All visitors to Algeria should remain alert and adhere to prudent security practices such as avoiding predictable travel patterns and maintaining a low profile.
Country Specific Information: Algeria
Source: U.S. Department of State
June 14, 2011
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Algeria is the second-largest country in Africa, with over four-fifths of its territory covered by the Sahara desert. The country has a population of 35 million people mainly located near the northern coast. Algeria is a multi-party, constitutional republic. Facilities for travelers are available in populated areas but sometimes limited in quality and quantity. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Algeria for additional information.
State Department Background Notes: Algeria (People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria)
Source: U.S. Department of State
In July 2001, President Bouteflika became the first Algerian President to visit the White House since 1985. This visit, followed by a second meeting in November 2001, a meeting in New York in September 2003, and President Bouteflika’s participation at the June 2004 G8 Sea Island Summit, was indicative of the growing relationship between the United States and Algeria. Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, contacts in key areas of mutual concern, including law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation, have intensified. Algeria publicly condemned the terrorist attacks on the United States and has been strongly supportive of international counterterrorism efforts. The United States and Algeria consult closely on key international and regional issues. The pace and scope of senior-level visits has accelerated. In April 2006, then-Foreign Minister Bedjaoui met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary Rice visited Algiers in September 2008. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, along with the Moroccan and Tunisian Foreign Ministers, on the margin of the March 2009 donor conference in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt. In December 2009, Algerian Foreign Minister Medelci met with Secretary Clinton in Washington, DC. In April 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder visited Algiers to sign a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Algerian Justice Minister Tayeb Belaiz.