Personnel and Recruitment

Algeria Table of Contents

Independent Algeria has never experienced difficulty in meeting its military manpower needs. Its population is predominantly young. According to United States government data, of an estimated population in 1993 of 27.4 million, more than 6 million are males age fifteen to forty-nine. Of these, an estimated 3.8 million are considered fit for military service, and 293,000 reach the military age of nineteen annually. Accordingly, basic manpower resources are more than adequate to meet any foreseeable military needs.

Until mid-1967, the ANP relied entirely on volunteer manpower. Given the plentiful supply of young men, the economic attraction of the army compared with the difficulties of finding employment elsewhere, and the absence of aversion to military service, the ANP would seem to be able to depend on a voluntary system indefinitely. Algeria's commitment to Arab nationalism, however, caused a rethinking of recruitment policies after Arab forces were decisively defeated by Israel in the June 1967 War. By a 1968 decree, all Algerians were obligated to serve two years upon reaching the age of nineteen. The objective of this national service plan was to increase substantially the personnel strength of the army and, at the same time, to train a youth corps for national development. The first six months were to be spent in military training with the ANP and the rest in social and economic projects managed by the armed forces. National service was also intended to provide political education and indoctrination in the revolutionary socialist program of the government. As initially projected, an equal number of young men and women were to be inducted. In practice, far fewer than the originally intended numbers of men were called to duty, and the induction of women was never implemented. Some women were accepted as ANP volunteers, although fewer were serving in 1992 than in past years. Most of these women were in the lower grades and were limited to the military health service.

Conscription has remained in effect since 1969, although the period of compulsory service has been reduced to eighteen months. Those young men not conscripted by the end of the year in which they become eligible can obtain a certificate attesting to their exemption from future call-up so that they can continue their studies or work without further distraction.

After the national service program was introduced, conscripts generally were given civic-action assignments following their initial military training period of six months. In some cases, opportunities were offered for those with limited education to learn trades at various vocational schools, often connected with civil engineering and construction. Others learned to drive motor vehicles and to operate construction equipment. National service provided a ready source of workers for civic-action projects while freeing regular soldiers to concentrate on other military missions. Beginning in the 1980s, however, most conscripts appear to have been assigned to regular military units to complete their eighteen-month service obligation, and fewer were given nonmilitary assignments. Some conscripts, such as doctors who deferred their military service until completing their education, were allowed to fulfill their service obligation by occupying civilian posts in their special fields in rural areas or small towns.

In 1993 the top echelon of the Algerian officer corps, mainly men in their mid-fifties, included many veterans of the War of Independence. Most had served in the external ALN, a few had been guerrilla officers of the internal maquis (the French resistance during World War II), and others had experience in the French army. Some, like Nezzar, had served as NCOs with the French before defecting to the ALN.

The army's prestige--rooted in the revolutionary struggle against the French--was dimmed by its excessive use of force to control the mass demonstrations of 1988 and 1991. Most Algerian citizens were too young to recall the achievements of senior officers in the fight for independence. Moreover, much of the anger that had ignited demonstrations among the civilian population was directed against widespread corruption among highly placed officials. Although few of the senior military had been directly implicated, they tended to be regarded with the same suspicion as civilian officeholders.

Nevertheless, the newer military leadership was liberal in its outlook, associating itself with the forward-looking managerial class that welcomed the abandonment of the socialist experiment and favored political democratization and the adoption of a free-market system. Senior commanders were resolutely opposed to an Islamist-led state because they feared it would mean an end to the modernization movement.

Younger officers came from all walks of life. Because of the ANP's strict educational requirements, however, people raised in urban areas with greater educational opportunities were more strongly represented than those raised in rural Algeria. Generally, all officer candidates were expected to be eighteen to twenty-three years of age, to have completed twelve years of education and hold a baccalaureate certificate, to be unmarried, and to be in good health. Competitive written examinations were held for entry into the military academies.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress