Conditions of Service

Algeria Table of Contents

The general environment of Algerian military life has long been of sufficiently high quality to make service in the ANP a reasonably attractive alternative to the deteriorating conditions found in the civilian sector. Most military personnel enjoy a higher standard of dignity and comfort than the average civilian in an economy struggling with unemployment and inflation. Food and pay compare favorably with that found in the civil sector. Other advantages, such as medical care, retirement benefits, and in-service training for later use in a civilian career, also make military service attractive. In principle, the armed forces do not constitute a privileged group insulated from the problems afflicting Algerian society as a whole. Nevertheless, the system is better organized and the standards of services provided tend to be superior to those available in civilian life. In a possible allusion to a decline of these standards, General Nezzar spoke of the "Spartan" conditions of service life in discussing the problems of the armed forces in 1992.

After independence the government realized that the loyalty and morale of the armed forces were essential to its stability and from the start allocated the largest share of the military budget for personnel-related expenses: pay, allowances, rations, and clothing. The ANP operated post exchange and commissary systems, built holiday camps for dependents, and extended some opportunities for duty-free purchasing. Members of the armed forces also benefited from a social security program maintained by the ANP separately from the national program maintained by the government.

A political commissariat, set up by Boumediene in 1963 and patterned after similar groups in Soviet-type regimes, provided ideological indoctrination and oversight of the armed forces. Its officers reported directly to the FLN. The political commissariat provided political supervision, operated its own training school, and assigned graduates to all ANP units. Although apparently an influential agency in the 1970s, a decade later the commissariat served mainly as an instrument to provide goods and services to boost servicemen's morale.

In its earlier years, the ANP adopted a reserved and austere profile, dedicated to the national goals, exemplary in its conduct, and modest in its lifestyle. Differences between enlisted and officer pay, unlike those in some of the older armies of the Middle East and North Africa, did not reflect a class distinction in which a highly paid officer caste was separated from a mass of conscripts by a wide chasm of pay and privilege. Since the late 1970s, however, the officer corps has enjoyed comfortable living quarters and recreational facilities; had easy access to consumer goods, housing, and transportation; and been insulated from the sometimes overbearing state bureaucracy.

The officer corps is not characterized by elaborate ceremony, ostentatious attire, or an inflated rank structure. To maintain the revolutionary tradition of equality, the military hierarchy was deliberately limited to the rank of colonel. In 1984 this system was modified when the ranks of brigadier general and major general were created. A number of promotions in 1992 raised eight of some twenty brigadier generals to major general. The result was that commanders of similar rank often held vastly different command responsibilities. Seasoned and competent officers with relatively low ranks often held positions that in other armed forces would be associated with higher ranks.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress