May 5, 2008
As part of the Ambassador Roundtable Series on International Collaboration to Combat Terrorism and Insurgencies, The Homeland Security Policy Institute and the International Center for Terrorism Studies co-hosted Ambassador Amine Kherbi, from Algeria, on May 5, 2008.
The citizens of Algeria have faced the challenge of fighting terrorism within the country’s borders since the turbulent 1990s. Ambassador Kherbi emphasized that globalization, coupled with ties between terrorism and organized crime, present new challenges for counterterrorist efforts.
Algeria seeks to build a collective and cooperative global response to terrorism. “This vision,” said the Ambassador, “shapes our response and represents Algeria’s solid cooperation— Algeria remains highly vigilant and pro-active, collaborating and sharing its experience with its international partners.” Algeria’s security is dependent on the security of its neighbors and the rest of the world, and vice versa. He also noted that political will and strong commitment by all nations are imperative for the long-term fight against terrorism.
Algeria maintains an ongoing dialogue with Europe and NATO and takes a leadership role on terrorism issues in the Arab League of Nations, the Organization of Islamic States, and the African Union. Of particular note, Algeria hosts the African Union’s Center for the Study and Research of Terrorism in Algiers. Further, bilateral cooperation with the United States in order to combat terrorism has been at an all-time high since the September 11 attacks.
The Ambassador observed that policies to combat and prevent terrorism that are pursued collectively must address both security and development with the same intensity. Kherbi emphasized that, “we cannot rely on the military component only if it is to have lasting effect.” Strong institutions, including in the political and judicial realms, are crucial for both democracy and security. He went on to recognize the importance of the participation of the media in accordance with strong institutions: “the press should be stronger—this is our hope.”
Noteworthy government initiatives include the introduction of a Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, and the authorities’ encouragement of the teaching of both religion and critical thinking skills in the educational system.
As part of the May 5th, 2008 Roundtable with Ambassador Amine Kherbi, the Homeland Security Policy Institute prepared a resource page where you will find some useful links to recent reports, relevant government agencies and other useful information.
"Algeria: Current Issues," Congressional Reserach Service RS21532 (February 16, 2005)
The situation in Algeria is generally good. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was reelected,in 2004 after his supporters manipulated the political process in his favor, but without blatant fraud, suggesting modest progress toward democratization. Moreover, the military, the most significant political force since independence, has muffled its voice. Domestic terrorism has decreased after over a decade of civil conflict, yet Algerians continue to be implicated in terrorism abroad. The U.S. State Departments lists the two Algerian groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). Terrorism provides a rationale for Algeria’s uneven human rights record. Bouteflika has energized foreign policy and broadened cooperation with the United States. This report will be updated if warranted.
"Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa," US State Department, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (April 30, 2008)
The security situation in Algeria was marked by several high profile terrorist attacks throughout the country, an evolution of terror tactics and ongoing low-level terrorist activities in the countryside. Beginning in April, several high profile attacks were staged throughout Algeria, including the December 11 near simultaneous bombing of the Constitutional Council and the UN headquarters in Algiers. This attack against a Western hard target underlined the substantial shift in strategy by al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who claimed responsibility for the attack and touted it as a major success. Previously, AQIM’s predecessor, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), had preferred to target Algerian government interests and had been more averse to suicide attacks and civilian casualties. Although Algerian government interests remained the primary focus of AQIM, this attack confirmed that foreigners were included as targets.
"Islamic Terrorism in Northwestern Africa: A 'Thorn in the Neck' of the United States?" The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (February 2007)
Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second in command, announced a new alliance with the Algeria- based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in August 2006. The announcement was corroborated by a statement posted on the GSPC website soon after. This radical Algerian network is little known in the United States but is one of the top terrorist threats in the northwestern corridor of Africa that runs from Morocco to Chad, is active in continental Europe, and may even have connections to aspiring militants in North America.1 Zawahiri’s statement was little more than de facto recognition of a longstanding relationship between al-Qaeda and Algerian Islamist militants, but his announcement publicized a nascent counterterrorism challenge in northwestern Africa, with the original leadership of al-Qaeda pursuing a strategy of harnessing local groups with local grievances to the wider global jihad against the West. This paper looks at the nature of the terrorist threat in and emanating from northwestern Africa and addresses some of America’s counterterrorism policy challenges in the region, focusing primarily on how the United States can empower local governments to confront a set of terrorists with whom American counterterrorism practitioners have had little contact.
"Declining in Algeria, GSPC enters International Theater," Terrorism Focus, Volume 3 Issue 1, The Jamestown Foundation (January 9, 2006)
Government authorities achieved a recent success in the battle against jihadists in Algeria, but the development comes at a time when the threat posed by the group may be more significant outside the country's borders. The Algerian daily Le Jeune Independant (www.jeune-independant.com) reported on January 2 that three high-ranking militants in the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) surrendered to the Algerian security services on December 26, in Médéa province, south of Algiers. The surrender provides further evidence of the increasing pressure the government forces are placing on the GSPC. The three militants are Abu Bilal al-Albani, responsible for the group's external relations, Abu Omar Abd al-Bir, who headed the media wing, and a third unidentified man. The paper went on to report that the men vowed to encourage other militants to give up armed struggle.
"Schism and collapse of morale in Algeria's GSPC," Terrorism Focus, Volume 2 Issue 7, The Jamestown Foundation (March 31, 2005)
Recent forum traffic underlines how the Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (GSPC), the strongest remaining Islamist militant group in Algeria, is suffering severe morale and organizational problems, as the combined stick of military pressure and carrot of a general amnesty, take effect. On February 21 one Algerian contributor expressed his exasperation to the forum Al-Ma'sada, at the news of an attack on a military convoy three days earlier: "I do not agree with the killing at this stage of powerless soldiers or policemen" he writes, in the face of a chorus of opposing messages, "in that it does not advance the cause … and only widens the gap between [the Islamists] and the people". This article discusses the collapse of morale and sees if the combined stick and carrot approach of the Algerian government is making headway amongst the militants.
"Islamism, Violence and Reform in Algeria: Turning the Page," International Crisis Group, Middle East Report N°29 (July 30, 2004)
This is the third of a series of briefings and reports on Islamism in North Africa. The first provided general background on the range and diversity of Islamic activism in the region, and subsequent papers examine with respect to particular states, the outlook and strategies of the main Islamist movements and organisations, their relations with the state and each other and how they have evolved. The analysis focuses on the relationship between Islamic activism and violence, especially but not only terrorism and the problem of political reform in general and democratisation in particular.
"Algeria's GSPC and America's 'War on Terror'," Policy Watch, #666, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (October 2, 2002)
Last week, intensified Islamist violence prompted Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to launch his military's largest counteroffensive against radical Islamic elements in five years. The target of this ongoing operation is the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), a breakaway faction of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). GSPC deserves special attention in America's "war on terror" for its extensive ties to al-Qaeda and its devastating effect on Algeria.
"The African Standby Force: An Update on Progress," Institute for Security Studies Paper 160 (March 2008)
The paper discusses the creation of the African Standby Force and the role it has for rapid deployment for peace support operations that may include, inter alia, preventive deployment, peacekeeping, peace building, post conflict disarmament, demobilisation, re-integration and humanitarian assistance. It also speaks of a potential Algerian role as a lead nation for high readiness battle groups in Central and North Africa.
Center for Research on Globalization: The Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative
Global Security.org: The Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative
Global Security.org: Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
BBC News: Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
BBC Country Profile: Algeria
CIA World Factbook: Algeria
News and Resource Links:
New York Times: Algeria
US State Department: Algeria
The Economist: Algeria
Ambassador Amine Kherbi
Amine Kherbi became Ambassador of Algeria to the United States on May 26, 2005. Ambassador Kherbi, a career diplomat, previously served as Advisor of International Security issues to the Algerian President (June 2002-April 2005), Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs (June 2001-May 2002), Ambassador to China (1996-2001), and Ambassador Brazil, Columbia, Spain, Indonesia, and Austria, as well as the Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna (1980-1991). He also served various posts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Director General of Multilateral Relations (1992-1996), Director of Political Affairs for Western Europe and Northern America (1977-1980), and Counselor in the Economic and Finance Department (1972). In addition, Ambassador Kherbi was Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture and Permanent Secretary on the Committee of Coordination (1968-1970), Head of Regional Planning at the Governorate of Algiers (1970-1972), and the Counselor for Economic Affairs and Deputy Permanent Representative at the Algerian Mission to the United Nations (1973-1977). While preparing his doctorate in Political Sciences at the University of Algiers, he served in the Office of the President as an Assistant in charge of Economic Affairs and International Relations (1967-1968). In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, he was the main negotiator on behalf of G-77 on raw materials, co-chairman of Industry –Technology group at the North-South dialogue, Paris, Spokesman of the Arab countries at the Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean conference and personal Representative of the Head of State to G-15. He has also been involved in various academic activities, including teaching at the National School of Administration, writing and publishing studies and articles on issues relating to Algeria’s foreign and economic policy, as well as development, South-South cooperation, North-South dialogue, the Mediterranean and Non-Alignment. Ambassador Kherbi holds a master’s degree in Social Sciences from Uppsala University in Sweden and is married with three children. Languages: Fluent in Arabic, French, Swedish, English, Portuguese and Spanish.
The Ambassadors Roundtable Series is designed to provide Ambassadors to the United States and their key diplomatic staff with a forum to discuss current and future counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts on a regional or country-specific basis. In an effort to draw upon various insights and experiences, the Ambassadors Roundtable Series builds upon and institutionalizes efforts over the past two years to engage in a dialogue with members of the international community, policy makers, and practitioners.