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ALGERIA: WikiLeaks documents reveal close collaboration with U.S. against Al Qaeda

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Algeria is now considered America's closest ally in the fight against Al Qaeda in North Africa, an unlikely partnership that emerged following years of strained relations, leaked US diplomatic cables obtained by Babylon & Beyond show.

The documents show extensive intelligence, security and, increasingly, economic cooperation between the two states, despite Algeria's violent history, oppressive government and ongoing tensions over its placement on the American Transportation Security Administration's enhanced screening watch list in January 2010.

A detailed timeline of "major anti-terrorism successes" of 2008 including the killing or capture of at least 19 militant figures, several major illegal weapons cache discoveries and a thwarted assassination attempt on then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she visited Algeria in September of that year.

"It is worth remembering that no country is more important than Algeria in the fight against Al Qaeda in the Sahel and Maghreb," the American ambassador to Algiers, David D. Pearce, wrote in a Jan. 6, 2010, cable.

Pearce’s comments were recorded following a meeting with an official from the Algerian foreign affairs ministry who relayed Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s “profound dismay” at Algeria’s inclusion on the TSA’s list, especially in light of its continued cooperation with the U.S. on security issues.

Pearce went on to recommend a high-level public overture in order to smooth over relations and protect American interests, which, according to a separate cable, included politically sensitive security contracts for a fingerprint identification system and military radios.

"Our commercial interests are rapidly expanding beyond the hydrocarbons sector," read a Jan. 12, 2010, cable. The U.S. imported $19 billion of Algerian oil and natural gas in 2008, according to the same cable. “[The] contracts have significant implications for U.S. commercial interests.”

The document also mentions contracts for gas-powered turbines and Boeing aircraft totaling in the billions.

The U.S. and Algeria have been working together to target Al Qaeda in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb, the local branch of the international militant group formed from reconstituted elements of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, one of several Islamist groups that fought the government during the Algerian civil war that ravaged the country for more than a decade.

Bouteflika managed to establish a tenuous peace in 2002 through a combination of brute force and amnesty for former fighters. He was the first Algerian president to visit the U.S. in 2001, but has been criticized as an authoritarian leader and recently had the constitution amended to allow him to run and win a third term.

Since adopting the Al Qaeda brand name in 2007, the group has been able to attract new recruits and funding while taking refuge along Algeria's vast and largely ungovernable southwestern border. While the U.S. noted Algeria's vital role in stemming the flow of fighters to Iraq, the documents also revealed frustration with what the cable described as Algerian reticence to share intelligence on militant groups operating within the country, blaming intelligence forces for failing to pass along information that could have prevented the deadly December 2007 bombing that targeted United Nations offices in Algiers.

According to the leaked documents, the U.S. not only provides substantial material support and training, it also maintains an active CIA base and conducts its own air surveillance on Al Qaeda cells inside Algerian territory via the U.S. Africa Command.

The CIA's presence in Algeria was first publicly acknowledged in 2009 following allegations that an American agent drugged and raped two Algerian women.

In a Feb. 1, 2009, cable posted on the website of the Lebanese Al Akhbar newspaper, American diplomats acknowledge the role of the Algerian state in suppressing local press coverage of the scandal.

Just two days after the story broke, it "had all but disappeared from the press," the cable read. "The almost complete absence of the story in the government press outlets indicates the government prefers to see the story die down."

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Rescuers help a man injured in a Dec. 11, 2007, blast in the Algerian capital, for which the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility. Credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (4)

@seif: you are going too far..."a land only intended for algerians"? where is your sense of hospitality. protecting the country against invasion is a duty for all but this does not justify paranoia or making foreigners feel unwelcome . if people come and live peacefully, what's the harm. we learn from other cultures and they learn from us. My main issue with the US is their track record of invading other countries under false pretense othet territories and takinf control over those nations and their resources. I cannot possibly appporve if such policies (which are also very impopular in Europe). you just have to look at those poor iraqis who paid the high for the crime of living in the wrong part of teh world (1.2 millions dead and for what?). owning energy ressources is more important than human life to their government. not an apology for their actions was heardfrom their government, not a single prosecution for genocide...that shpould tell you about justice means for their country. justice for US citizens within the US but no justice for other when their citizens commit horrific crimes. they manipulated their own army that is now reduced to a group of mercenaries working for international finance and lead by teh US.Now with africom, the US are trying to install their leadership on teh continent, but so is China and Russia (with who we had more respectful relationship for years). I agree it would stupid not to be wary of US military presence as it is never good news. as to other citizens of the planet (even US citizens), they are welcome to come and share our culture. americans are not all crazy invaders, they are generally rather nice people.

To tell the truth. Algeria is a land, intended solely to Algerians. Not for someone else. Algeria is not universal. If the guy is not Algerian, he has no place. Interpret the thing as you want? You say that we are racists . We answer proudly , no and no , we have no xenophobic nature, but we have the instinct of distrust . A warlike nature , that to protect our land only for Algerians. To attest , it is said in our national anthem : We made a pact for that Algeria live
Testify and Testif . We are the witness of this great sacrifice. The sacrifice of 1.5 million Algerians , noble and warriors . While there, Algeria was liberated in 1962, after a blood bath - From noble blood to irrigate this noble land of Algeria . Why not to tell that was a genocide, perpetrated by armed assassins of France . This is not politics! It is the story written by our brave warriors . A high price of people and a war that marked the history of the liberation of peoples . So , we do not need anybody to help us or show us how to defend our beloved Algeria. It was defended even when the U.S. and its allies, gave refuge to the bloodthirsty and also we don’t forget the speculations of the Republicans, speaking of the right to democracy by bombs. Did you forget the bomb in the airport of Algiers , while the sponsor Anwar Hadam , through CNN, formalized the attack. Without shame or regret, the Americain medias , follows and condemns Algeria in the framework of human rights . It is not easy to forget it . And do you think that the Algerians will accept foreign military presence on the territory of the noble martyrs. Do not worry about Algeria! We're here and able to protect our country against anything and anyone? Be cushy to sleep deeply in the arms of Morpheus - You - Americans, English and poor French , whom are in search for siesta to forget the great war of Algeria. Do you think that Algerians believe to the policy of France . They killed 45,000 Algerians in a single day (May 8, 1945). They have experimented 112 Algerians living in nuclear testing (1961 à Reggane ) . They made more than 18 000 mass graves, full of Algerians killed . They used bombs in the night in the Casbah (Algiers) as terrorists . How about this ? They want to protect Algeria. Poor French , we never trust on you ...

Algeria is not Iraq or Afganistan. We have chased the French clolonialism after more than a million and a half Algerians were dead for the cause of independance, we suffered during the bloody years 1990's and we have been successful in our war against terror without the intrusion of any external forces. We made it happen with our own hands. as to complement the other comment, we simply do not need other nation's help in our territories. If you want to help us, help yourself and prevent these extremist groups to spread internationally.

we had terrorism on our territory for more than a decade. these people did not wait for 9/11 to appear but your population and the western world started counting victims from that date only. more than 200,000 dead and all due to your "nice"allies in Middle East. as far as I am concerned i am against any american presence on our soil as we all know what it leads to. the US leave nothing but death and a blood trail wherever they go. helping you to fight terrorism is one thing (a human duty) but leaving you a remote possibility to achieve other goals is out of the question. your country has a neo-colonialist foreign policy and as such does not respect other territories integrity or sovereignity of nations. maybe you should think about this and review your policies and realize how disrespectful and disregarding you are viewed even by your europeean allies.


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