Algeria's Hidden Hand

The ISI isn't the only fickle friend giving American policymakers heartburn.

The Algerian regime recently celebrated fifty years of its rule after France granted the country independence, and le pouvoir shows no signs of joining the Arab Spring and allowing free and fair elections. So far, Algeria has missed the wave of democratization that has swept the region, but one wonders how much longer change can be held off, even by force. Fearing that the military, which has many conscripts, might not be willing to openly fight the Algerian people, the regime is more dependent than ever on the DRS to maintain control over the country and the region by any means necessary.

If anything, thanks to the KGB training of many of its senior officers, the DRS is even more adept at provocation, disinformation, and dirty tricks than Pakistan’s ISI, which is no slouch in such dark arts. As the United States and the West move to direct involvement in combating jihadists in North Africa, a dispassionate assessment is needed. Washington must know exactly what is going on before it can decide how closely it should ally itself with a regime and an intelligence service that have a great deal of blood on their hands.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States and NATO continue to be held hostage to the ISI’s agenda. It would be a grave mistake to repeat this strategic error and find ourselves held hostage in the Maghreb by the Algerian DRS and its surrogates.

John R. Schindler is professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College and chair of the Partnership for Peace’s Combating Terrorism Working Group, as well as a former counterintelligence officer with the National Security Agency. The views expressed here are entirely his own. He blogs at The XX Committee.