|Algeria Table of Contents
The army's personnel strength of 105,000 in late 1993 included 65,000 conscripts. The army's size nearly doubled after 1978, largely to prepare for possible hostilities with Morocco over the Western Sahara. After reaching a manpower strength of 120,000 in 1992 to deal with the pressures of domestic disturbances, financial considerations required a cutback in personnel. The army commander appointed in the spring of 1992 was Major General Khelifa Rahim, who also served as deputy chief of staff of the armed forces.
Territorially, Algeria is divided into six numbered military regions, each with headquarters located in a principal city or town. This system of territorial organization, adopted shortly after independence, grew out of the wartime wilaya structure and the postwar necessity of subduing antigovernment insurgencies that were based in the various regions. Regional commanders control and administer bases, logistics, and housing, as well as conscript training. Commanders of army divisions and brigades, air force installations, and naval forces report directly to the Ministry of National Defense and service chiefs of staff on operational matters.
During the 1980s, most of the army's combat units were concentrated in Military Region II (Oran) and to a lesser extent in Military Region III (Béchar). Adjacent to Morocco, region III straddles the main access routes from that country and includes most of Algeria's hydrocarbon and manufacturing industries. It is also near the troubled Western Sahara, embracing territory previously claimed by Morocco.
Much of the internal disorder and violence associated with economic distress and the Islamist movement has occurred in Military Region I (Blida), which includes the capital of Algiers, and Military Region V (Constantine). Army units have been strengthened in and near the cities where attacks against the government and security forces have occurred. Although regional commanders were originally all colonels, the commanders of region I (Mohamed Djenouhat) and region V (Abdelhamid Djouadi) were both promoted to major general in 1992. The two southeastern jurisdictions--Military Region IV (Ouargla) and Military Region VI (Tamanrasset)--are sparsely populated tracts of desert where a limited number of combat troops carry out patrols and man small outposts. The Ouargla region assumed a measure of strategic importance after relations with Libya soured, but the military's main activities there and in region VI are the construction and planting projects undertaken by conscript forces.
Originally organized as independent infantry battalions, the ANP decided in 1966, based on Soviet advice, to form four mechanized divisions. However, logistical problems and the high cost of associated heavy weaponry soon forced a reassessment of the plan. In 1992 the army again began to reorganize on a divisional basis; hence some units have been in a state of flux.
According to The Military Balance, 1993-1994, in 1993 the army's main combat units consisted of two armored divisions, each with three tank regiments and one mechanized regiment, and two mechanized divisions, each with three mechanized regiments and one tank regiment. Furthermore, in 1993 there were five motorized infantry brigades and one airborne special forces brigade. Each infantry brigade consisted of four infantry battalions and one tank battalion. In addition, in 1993 the army had seven independent artillery battalions, five air defense battalions, and four engineering battalions. The brigades had authorized personnel levels of 3,500 men, but all units were believed to be understrength.
Twelve companies of desert troops, each with about 400 men, functioned as border guards. Originally these troops patrolled on camels, but by the 1980s they relied extensively on light reconnaissance vehicles. Two special riot units, said to number about 15,000 men, were assigned to maintain civil order. In addition to other riot-control equipment, they reportedly were armed with shotguns.
The army was well equipped with both older and more up-to- date models of Soviet armor and artillery. In 1993 it had nearly 1,000 tanks, including more than 600 T-62s and late-model T-72s. About 200 T-72s had been delivered since 1990. Earlier versions of wheeled armored personnel carriers (APCs), the Soviet BTR-50 and BTR-60, had been supplemented by BMP-1 and BMP-2 tracked armored infantry fighting vehicles mounted with 73mm guns and a few with Sagger antitank missiles. The army's extensive artillery inventory was headed by Soviet 122mm and 152mm self-propelled howitzers. There were also more than 100 122mm, 140mm, and 240mm multiple rocket launchers in the inventory. The principal antitank weapons were the Soviet Sagger and the French Milan. In addition to a variety of towed and self-propelled air defense guns, the army had Soviet SA-8 and SA-9 vehicle-mounted surfaceto -air missiles (SAMs) and SA-7 man-portable SAMs.
During the early years of the army's modernization in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of ANP officers went to the Soviet Union for training. Since then, Algeria has established its own military academies, although Russian advisers were still attached to the ANP in 1993. Strategic and tactical doctrine continues to be based on Russian models. Basic army cadet training is conducted at the military academy at Cherchell, west of Algiers, the site of a French interservices military school taken over by the government in 1963. Officer candidates attend for three years, generally followed by a year of specialized training before being commissioned and assigned to field units. The Cherchell academy also includes a staff college for advanced training of a limited number of field-grade officers of all branches.
A number of other institutions are used to train army personnel. Among these are the school for technical, administrative, and logistical training at El Harrach, just southeast of Algiers; the school for armored units at Batna; the school for artillery units at Telerghma near Constantine; the school for infantry commandos at Biskra; the school for communications technicians at Bougara, on the outskirts of Algiers; and the school for desert cavalry units at Ouargla.
The army's NCOs are trained at Ksar el Boukhari, about 100 kilometers south of Algiers, where they receive instruction in leadership, principles of command and control, tactical deployment, and political indoctrination. The NCOs are often used in command positions in smaller tactical units.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress