Algeria Table of Contents

The armed forces consist of four branches: the army, the navy, the air force, and air defense. They are augmented by the National Gendarmerie, which comes under the Ministry of Interior. According to The Military Balance, 1993-1994, the total strength of the active armed forces in late 1993 was 121,700, including the army, 105,000; the navy, 6,700; and the air force, 10,000. Air defense manning levels are not known but one source estimates them as 4,000, included within the air force complement. The number of reserves is listed at 150,000, but their state of readiness is not known.

Under the constitution, the president is supreme commander of all the armed forces and is responsible for national defense. When Boumediene deposed Ben Bella in 1965, he eliminated the national defense portfolio to reinforce his own control over the ANP. In July 1990, Benjedid revived the position, appointing Nezzar to head the ministry. Nezzar had been chief of staff since he replaced Major General Abdallah Belhouchet in 1988. Belhouchet, who until that time had been considered the most important military figure after Benjedid, was dismissed as part of the wholesale removal of senior officers after the 1988 riots. After Benjedid's resignation as president in early 1992 and Nezzar's appointment as sole military representative on the High Council of State, the interim governing body, Nezzar was seen as the strong man of the regime.

Under the constitution, the head of state can turn for advice on national security matters to the High Security Council, which along with the Council of Ministers, is required to give its consent to the declaration of a state of emergency in the event the country faces imminent danger to its institutions, its independence, or its territorial integrity. The High Security Council must also be heard prior to a declaration of war by the president. The security council's members include the prime minister, the minister of national defense, the chief of staff of the armed forces, the minister of interior (an army officer), and the minister of justice. Upon Benjedid's resignation, the High Security Council assembled to cancel the second round of the general election and created the High Council of State to exercise interim presidential powers.

During the 1980s, Benjedid took a number of measures to reorganize the military high command so as to enhance the ANP's efficiency and military effectiveness. In 1984, after promoting eight colonels to become the first generals in independent Algeria, Benjedid announced the establishment of an ANP general staff. Previously, the armed forces had relied on the secretary general of the Ministry of National Defense to coordinate staff activities. The previous secretary general of the ministry, Major General Mustafa Benloucif, was named the first chief of staff. Benloucif had risen quickly in the ANP and was also an alternate member of the FLN Political Bureau. However, he was dismissed in 1986 without explanation; in 1992 the regime announced that Benloucif would be tried for corruption and the embezzlement of US$11 million, which had been transferred to European accounts.

The general staff had responsibility for operational planning for the integrated armed forces, budgeting, information and communications, logistics and administrative support, mobilization, and recruiting. It was not, however, part of the regular chain of command. In practice, the armed forces chief of staff dealt directly with the chiefs of the service branches and with the commanders of the six military regions. Along with Nezzar, the senior hierarchy of the armed forces included the chief of staff, Abdelmalek Guénaizia; the commander of the National Gendarmerie, Abbas Ghezaiel; the chief of military security, Mohamed Médiène; and the inspector general of the land forces, Tayeb Derradji. Minister of Interior Larbi Belkheir, a major general who had been considered part of the collective military leadership, was replaced by a civilian minister after Boudiaf's assassination in mid-1992 and was no longer on active service.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress