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8/19/11 1:39 AM
Algeria's 'one-eyed' American general
The US may not 'see' any evidence of Algerian support for Libya's Gaddafi, but that does not mean it does not exist.
Jeremy Keenan Last Modified: 26 Jun 2011 14:30
Mourad Medelci, Algeria's foreign minister, (left) allegedly received a rap over the knuckles during a meeting in May with Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, (right) [GALLO/GETTY]
Far be it from me to compare Britain's most famous sea-lord with the commander of US AFRICOM, other than to point out that there is something very Nelsonian about General Carter F Ham's statement on June 1 that he "could see no evidence" of Algeria's support for Muammar Gaddafi's beleaguered regime in Libya. Saying that one 'cannot see' something, like Nelson placing his telescope to his blind eye, is invariably just a disingenuous semanticism for denying the existence of something which, as in the case of Algerian support for Gaddafi, is becoming increasingly evident. Algeria's support for Gaddafi
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weapons and Algerian and mercenary fighters. These efforts. Some were listed as Air Algérie and were possibly evacuating nationals. The Algeria Watch website. aircraft big enough to carry battle tanks. to address Gaddafi's meeting of Libyan tribes in Tripoli on May 8. These records show repeated flights by C-130 Hercules and Ilyushin Il-76. does not take kindly to external 'advice' from major powers and immediately dispatched one of its rougher political apparatchiks. were led by Abdelkader Messahel. Alain Juppé. There have also been numerous reports of Algerian military transport planes airlifting mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa. were listed as 'special flights' by aircraft bearing registration codes used by the Algerian military. carried serial numbers which identified them as French military equipment that had been sold to Algeria. the French foreign minister. On April 18. By March. the NTC had put the number of Algerian flights that had landed at Tripoli's Mitiga airport at 51. involved 450 mercenaries. This operation was reportedly directed by Colonel Djamel Bouzghaia. It began with energetic lobbying by Algerian diplomats at the UN and with the EU. These were first identified in the western Libyan town of Zawiyah where some of them were captured and identified by anti-Gaddafi forces. first reported by the German-based Algeria Watch (sourced to a memorandum of February 25 from the Rachad Movement) and Al Jazeera's Inside Story on February 25. Shamsiddin Abdulmolah. to come to Washington. however. Algeria's foreign minister. for Mourad Medelci. During his two-day visit on May 2-3. and prior to the authorisation of the UN 'No-Fly zone' on March 17. a National Transitional Council (NTC) spokesman.Untitled 8/19/11 1:39 AM Algeria's support for Gaddafi has been extensive. recruited in Algeria's Tindouf camps and airlifted to Libya by Algerian planes. Algeria. although 'summons' might be a more appropriate word. the secretary-general of the FLN and special representative of President Bouteflika.claims were supported by several independent sources. however. believed to be Polisario members. confronted Algeria with evidence discovered by French military advisers working with the Libyan rebels that a number of military jeeps and trucks used by Gaddafi's forces. As I reported on April 20. Washington's growing displeasure at this situation led to an invitation. Algeria's minister of Maghrebian and African affairs. in a memorandum to the Arab League. Medelci met with Clinton and a number of top US officials involved in North Africa and counter-terrorism. Cooperation and Community Abroad. Most. both the UK and US governments are embarrassed and irritated at seeing the Algerian regime. Bouguetaya is a member of the central committee of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). propping up the Libyan dictator whom they are struggling to depose. Following the defection of Libyan pilots to Malta in the early stages of the conflict. He called Gaddafi's effort to stay in power heroic and criticised the West for its "bombing of the civilian population". the head of the DRS' external relations directorate. In a rabble-rousing speech. Sidi Bouzid and Thala in Tunisia. Behind the bonhomie of the press releases. The memorandum said the shipments included ammunition. which had been abandoned after a military battle. With specific reference to Algeria's War of Independence. Bouguetaya voiced the FLN's unconditional support for Gaddafi and blasted the NATO operations in Libya. Algeria sent 21 of its pilots to the Mitiga air base in Tripoli. NATO and the Arab League to deter any external intervention in Libya. also reported that the Algerian government had sent armed detachments to Libya. and Belkacem Belkaid. president of the National Assembly's Commission on Foreign Affairs. Algeria's ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg. Algeria's Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS) employed many of the private security forces and Republican Guard of deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sent them to Libya to shore up Gaddafi. with Amar Bendjama. One airlift. Many of these units were previously used as snipers to assassinate demonstrators in Kasserine. reported in Britain's Daily Telegraph on April 20 and sourced to a former Gaddafi loyalist who gave the details to NATO officials. Data collected from the air traffic control tower at Benghazi's Benina airport ascertained that there had been 22 flights by Algerian aircraft to Libyan destinations between February 19 and 26. which they support. citing the Rachad Movement. sources reported that Medelci received a rap over the knuckles over Algeria's support for Gaddafi. Bouguetaya said that he had Page 2 of 4 . later reported the capture of 15 Algerian mercenaries and the deaths of three others in fighting near Ajdabiya . Destinations included the airports at Sebha and Sirte. Sadek Bouguetaya. playing key roles. Algeria's representative to the EU and NATO. According to the same source. who works directly under Major General Rachid Laalali (alias Attafi). and a right hand man of Abdelaziz Belkhadem.
its planes are flying over Libya from Crete and – undisclosed until now – it has Qatari officers advising the rebels inside the city of Misrata. The two main French figures in the economic talks are believed to have been Pierre Lellouche. involved the DRS sounding out France on the possibility of instigating Clause 88 of the constitution. and Ahmed Kherfi. it is believed. AFRICOM is woefully short of boots on the ground. Bouguetaya's remarks did not pass unnoticed in Washington. The 'deal' has two strands. AFRICOM's commander may be 'one-eyed'. and by implication Algeria's other 'friends'. Egypt's Mubarak and soon. The Independent's acclaimed Middle East correspondent. which seems likely. or possibly earlier. described by Robert Fisk. the secretary of state for foreign trade and commercial affairs. General Ham's statement falls within the latter. with more in the pipeline. and Jean-Pierre Raffarin. to save Algeria's regime from going the same way as Tunisia's Ben Ali. to help Gaddafi's forces.Untitled 8/19/11 1:39 AM confidence that the Libyan people would defeat France. it is presumed." said Fisk. the Libyan ambassador to Algeria publicly announced that his embassy had purchased 500 'military grade' vehicles (believed to be Toyota pickups) from Algerian dealers. is doing its best. In fact. or 'Monsieur Algérie' as he has been nicknamed since his appointment last September as President Sarkozy's special envoy to manage business relations with Algeria. One was that Qatar. but in this instance Ham's duplicitous statement is not the outcome of AFRICOM's limitations but a 'package deal' worked out very hastily between top officials in the US and French governments and Algeria's DRS. Having reportedly met with the DRS generals. which allows for the president's removal on medical grounds. to control Baghdad. was to try to 'persuade' the Algerian regime from resupplying Gaddafi with tanks and armoured vehicles. dabbling in the more intellectually impoverished end of the social sciences and producing false information. On May 18. The political talks. by the end of the summer. The West. its specialties are neither in fighting campaigns nor intelligence. if Bouteflika's reform process has achieved nothing. While the seeds of the 'deal' may have been sown during Medelci's visit to Washington. At the same time that Bouguetaya was haranguing NATO in Tripoli. Apart from implying that both Algeria and Libya were fighting NATO. the two Frenchmen travelled to Algiers to meet with Algeria's Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on May 31. misguidedly in the view of many Algerians. one reason suggested by Fisk for the ridiculously slow progress the NATO campaign is making against Gaddafi is that Algerian armour of superior quality has been replacing the Libyan material destroyed in air strikes. "is committed to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi. Sheikh Hamad's message to his Algerian counterpart is believed to have been two-fold. "Qatar. Gaddafi. but in handing out contracts to private military contractors. attended by some 150 to 160 French business concerns. notably the US. the head of the DRS' counter-espionage directorate (DCE) . Bouguetaya likened the NATO operation to the attempts of Paul Bremer. The opposition Rachad Movement believes that the secret talks were both political and economic. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.500. AFRICOM is very reliant on second-hand and often highly dubious intelligence sources. the head the DRS' external relations directorate (DDSE). were disappointed at Algeria's lack of meaningful political reform. The other is to try to save the Algerian regime from itself by 'encouraging' it to move more rapidly on meaningful political reform. The limitations of AFRICOM In some respects. This would pave the way for the DRS to present itself as the 'saviour of the nation' and to initiate the sort of reform process Western powers desire. One is to effectively rehabilitate the Algerian regime with NATO and the Pentagon. mostly based in Stuttgart as no country in Africa is willing to headquarter it." Indeed. Unlike other US military commands. With a force of only 1.had travelled secretly to France to meet with top French government officials. it would be surprising if AFRICOM were to actually 'see something'. UK and France. the first indication that something was afoot came with reports in the third week of May that two of the DRS' top generals Rachid Laalali. The other. The essence of the economic 'deal' is that if economic and business relations between the two countries are to be Page 3 of 4 ." paid a one-day visit to Algiers. the former US administrator to Iraq. as Robert Fisk reported a few days later on May 30. the Emir of Qatar. as "the wisest bird in the Arabian Gulf. as the Algerian revolutionary forces had done in 1962. The back-drop to the meeting was a two-day FrancoAlgerian partnership forum.
the agreement reached between the two sides culminated in Ham making a high-profile visit to Algiers (May 31-June 1). Algeria must scrap most. to back up its exaggerated threats that AQIM is in possession of SAMs. the US will go along with ramping up Algeria's al-Qaeda scare-mongering in the western half of the Sahel. In short. It is not certain whether the meeting took place in Washington. University of London. In doing so. the US will save Algeria from international humiliation by reiterating Ham's denial of Algerian support for Gaddafi. It fears that it will target a civilian airliner or smaller aircraft. as in Libya. By this. real or false. 2. The essence of the deal is therefore. Algeria will be encouraged to put the blame for all such 'propaganda' and 'false rumour' onto its steadfast enemy Morocco and opposition movements such as Rachad. In short. the US will back both Algeria's scare-mongering over the threat al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) presents to both Algeria and Europe as well as Algeria's often quite hysterical and unverified statements over the circulation of arms from Libya to AQIM. the threat of terrorism. meeting with the president and the country's top brass and making his now famous "I can see no evidence" speech. Laalali and Kherfi met with the Americans. possibly in southern Algerian. I refer to the fabrication of terrorism in 2003 by both parties in order to justify the launch of a Sahara-Sahelian front in the GWOT. as long as Algeria keeps out of Libya. Source: Al Jazeera Page 4 of 4 . Jeremy Keenan is a professorial research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Stuttgart or possibly elsewhere. Following their initial talks with top French officials. The warning. However." Rachad fears that the DRS will carry-out a false-flag terrorist strike. Algeria will also desist from its attempts to link the Libyan rebels with al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism. broadcast almost daily. For Algeria. is: "If you revolt. that: 1. as it has in the past. both militarily and 'verbally'. neither the US nor Algeria can afford to hang their dirty washing on the line.Untitled 8/19/11 1:39 AM boosted through more French business investment in Algeria and partnerships with Algerian companies. The deal struck between the DRS and the US is both a re-affirmation of the strategic importance of Algeria to the US and a reminder to both sides that there has been too much 'recent history' in regard to their joint activities in the global war on terror (GWOT) over the last ten years for them to fall out. 3. al-Qaeda will take advantage and spread even further chaos and violence in the country. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy. and author of 'The Dark Sahara: America's War on Terror in Africa'. such as its absurd claim that AQIM has acquired "20 million pieces of armaments" from Libyan arsenals and that AQIM in the Sahel is now armed with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Nor is it yet known who was involved on the US side. In exchange. the scare of al-Qaeda is used to justify its internal repression and to frighten Algerians. in the Sahel region provides AFRICOM with an important justification for its existence. of the conditions and restrictions imposed on foreign investment by Algeria's nationalistic 2009 Finance Act. if not all. From the US perspective. Algeria will cease its support for Gaddafi.
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