The Ugly Truth about Algeria

State terrorism. Human-rights abuses. Mass repression. How much do we really understand about what happened when Algeria plunged into civil war?

Last weekend, Algeria celebrated fifty years of independence. But for most Algerians, buffeted by poverty, instability, corruption and war, there is little to celebrate. Mid-May parliamentary elections resulted in a surprising win for the junta, leading to accusations of fraud as well as despair for those hoping for change via the ballot box. It is clear that the military has no intention to bowing to any sort of peaceful regime change, but infighting among the elite may undo the system. When the junta falls, as someday it surely will, the change will rock those who have waged Algeria’s dirty war against terrorism. The effects on the junta’s foreign supporters, who have turned a blind eye to massive human-rights abuses in the name of counterterrorism, will be serious too.

It is time for the U.S. government to follow the lead of human-rights groups: Washington should start asking important questions about what Algiers has really been up to since 1992, and to what extent the junta and the DRS have been engaged in mass repression and state terrorism under the guise of fighting Al Qaeda—all possibly with U.S. assistance. The saga of Algeria over the last twenty years constitutes “one big murder mystery,” said one of the few writers in the Anglosphere to take notice. It’s time to get to the bottom of it.

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

Image: Magharebia