The defense, which is based on selective military duty with an initial service of 18 months, comprises (2008) 147,000 men and is organized into 5 divisions with 900 tanks, 2 submarines, 9 frigates/corvettes, 20 patrol boats, 140 fighter aircraft and 33 attack helicopters. The reserves amount to 150,000 people. Semi-military security forces amount to 187,000 men, of whom 150,000 are in semi-military “home defense”. The material is older or semi-modern and of Soviet origin. Algeria is a member of the Arab League and has since 1975 signed a defense agreement with Libya. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that DZA stands for Algeria.
Defense costs increased in 1985-96 from 1.7% to 4.0% of GDP, having fallen to 2.7% of GDP in 2006. Algeria participates with observers in the UN peacekeeping operations. Five armed opposition groups are active in Algeria, of which there has been a ceasefire since 1997 with the 4,000-strong Islamic Rescue Army (Armée Islamique du Salut, AIS).
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The violence from both the government and the Islamists increased. At a public event in June, Budiaf was murdered by one of his security guards while he was speaking. Budiaf was replaced by Ali Kafi and at the same time Prime Minister Ghozali resigned. The government’s policy towards the opposition was now further tightened. In September, under the leadership of new Prime Minister Belaid Abdelsalam, the government announced a series of “anti-terrorist measures” – including the extension of the death penalty to a host of new areas. Amnesty International estimated that about 2,000 people lost their lives during the first year of the Civil War. In February 1993, the State Council extended the state of emergency indefinitely, imposed a curfew in Algiers and 5 provinces and dissolved all the organizations affiliated with the illegal FIS.
From this moment, the military wavered between seeking a negotiating solution and crushing the Islamic groups militarily. Towards the end of 93, the FIS expressed its willingness to enter into a dialogue with the government, which responded by releasing 60 detained Islamists and convening a negotiating conference. But the attempt was only the first of a series of failures that resulted from disagreement between the various political sectors. The government declined to invite a number of the Islamic groups, and the FLN and FFS stated that a president appointed by the peace conference would have no legitimacy whatsoever. After the failed attempt, the government appointed Defense Minister Lamine Zeroual as president for the following 3 years.
Prime Minister Abdelsalam refused to undertake massive privatizations and was therefore removed from power. At the beginning of 94, it paved the way for an agreement between the IMF and the new government led by Redha Malek. The increase in external debt coincided with the increase in unemployment, which reached 22% of the working population. Malek was replaced by another advocate of economic liberalization, Mokdad Sifi, who was considered to be more open to dialogue with the Islamists. This marked the beginning of a growing divide in all political sectors, and at the same time the Islamic guerrilla was divided into the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and the Armed Islamic Movement. Violence from both sides – both government and Islamists – continued throughout the year, with none of them being able to achieve a military victory. In one of their most spectacular actions, the Islamists succeeded in freeing 1,000 prisoners from the high-security prison Tazoult.
The Civil War continued through 95, but despite some military superiority on the part of the government, it did not seem possible to crush the Islamic opposition. The political attempts to resolve the conflict did not produce any greater results either. After meeting in Rome at the beginning of the year, representatives of the FIS, FLN, FFS and the moderate Islamists from Hamas proposed that the government stop the violence, release the political prisoners and form a national unity government to organize elections. But despite the support of Spain, the United States, France and Italy, the proposal was rejected by President Zeroual. He continued the war against the Islamists and in November he organized 95 presidential elections. It was boycotted by FIS, FLN and FFS, giving Zeroual a 61% win over moderate Islamist Mahfoud Nahnah’s 25%.
In the first months of 96, Zeroual had received support from a new group of leaders in the FLN, achieved a number of important military victories, and implemented the IMF’s structural adjustment program, which had led to the eradication of large sections of the interlayer and the poorest sectors of the population. But the war was not over. January 97 was particularly violent and the GIA showed that the organization still had significant operational capacity. More than 200 people died in various assaults – over 100 were beheaded. That put the government in the highest alert.
During the period leading up to the June 5 parliamentary elections, the violence intensified. The election gave the ruling party a relatively majority with 155 out of 380 seats in parliament. The moderate Islamic group The Movement for a Peaceful Society got 69 seats, FLN 64 and FFS as well as RDC got 19. The FIS had called for an election boycott and declared that 34% had boycotted the election.