Military history of Algeria
The military history of Algeria covers a vast time period and complex events. It interacts with multiple military events in the region for independence and stability.
Independence from Carthage
The Punic Wars were a series of wars fought between Rome and the city-state of Carthage. During these wars the Algerians took the opportunity to become independent of Carthage, and Algerian kingdoms were established.
The First and Second Barbary Wars were a series of conflicts between the United States and the Barbary States in North Africa. At issue was the pirates' demand of tribute from American vessels in the Mediterranean. The United States paid taxes and rights fees to access the Mediterranean sea until the end of the Second Barbary War.
France seized Algiers in 1830, using as justification an alleged insult to the French consul by the reigning Dey of Algiers. The conquest of Algeria by the French faced long and bitter opposition, led from 1832 to 1847 by the Algerian resistance leader Abd-el-Kader. The French Army used scorched-earth tactics and there were heavy losses amongst the indigenous Kabyle and Arab peoples (estimated to have numbered about 2 million in 1830). It was not until 1857 that the country was physically occupied and complete pacification was not achieved until 1881. The conquest was not technically completed until the early 1900s when the last Tuareg were conquered and the Sahara came under full French control.
French Army of Africa
The French Army recruited extensively from the Berber and Arab peoples of Algeria throughout the period of French rule (1830–1962). Most were employed as infantry (Tirailleurs) and cavalry (Spahis). Algerian troops saw extensive service in the Crimean War, Mexico, the Franco-Prussian War, various colonial campaigns in Africa, Tonkin and Syria, both World Wars, and the First Indochina War.
In addition to indigenous troops, the French Army raised regiments of Zouaves and Chasseurs d' Afrique for service in Algeria. Originally comprising French volunteers, these units were after 1871 mostly drawn from French settlers in Algeria ("pied-noirs") undertaking their military service.
Following the end of the Algerian War (1962) most of France's North African units were disbanded. A reduced Foreign Legion and one regiment each of Spahis, Tirailleurs and Chasseurs d'Afrique remain in the modern French Army,
World War II
During World War II, Algeria, along with North Africa, were under the control of Nazi Germany and Vichy France. On November 8, 1942 the Allies launched the first major offensive of the war codenamed Operation Torch.
Allied Forces led by Dwight D. Eisenhower landed on the northern beaches and advanced south against an army of 60,000 Vichy troops. The Allies retook Morocco along with Algeria, establishing the liberation of northern Africa.
During the War, large numbers of both Muslim and European Algerians served with the French Army. Algerian troops particularly distinguished themselves as part of the French Expeditionary Corps under General Juin, during the Italian campaign of 1943 and the Allied invasion of southern France in 1944.
War of Independence
The Algerian War of Independence was a series of uprisings and guerilla warfare by Algerian Nationalists against the French administration and army, the pied-noir community of European descent, and pro-French Muslim militias (Harkis). During the war the French Fourth Republic collapsed and Charles de Gaulle established a new Republic. Algeria gained independence in 1962 with Ahmed Ben Bella as the first President. The conflict has had a lasting impact on France and Algeria because of the atrocities committed on both sides.
The nationalist Armee de Liberation Nationale (ALN) (see below) came to number about 150,000 lightly armed troops by 1962, serving both in Algeria and beyond its borders. The bulk of actual fighting was carried out by varying numbers of "internal" irregular fighters who comprised six regional commands. While beaten in most direct clashes, notably after 1957, the poorly equipped and outnumbered internal forces were able to maintain an effective opposition to a French Army of nearly half a million troops, throughout an extended struggle that cost up to a million Algerian lives.
New Algerian Army
The Armee de Liberation Nationale (ALN was created shortly after the Algerian rising began in 1954. It comprised both internal and external wings (the latter based in Tunisia and Morocco during the war). It was the well armed and trained external wing who made up the bulk of the new Armee Nationale Populaire (ANP) created in 1962. Only some 10,000 of the 50,000-60,000 who had fought in the internal forces were taken into the ANP while the remainder were demobilised.
The regular element of the Algerian armed forces remained at a level of 60,000-70,000 after independence until 1969 when conscription was introduced. Most conscripts however were employed on non-military duties after doing their basic training.
The Sand War occurred along the Algerian-Moroccan border in October 1963, and was a Moroccan attempt to claim the Tindouf and the Bechar. Border skirmishes escalated into a full-blown confrontation, with intense fighting around the oasis towns. The Organisation of African Unity eventually managed to arrange a formal cease-fire and a peace agreement was then made. Tensions between the two countries have continued, arising primarily from both political differences and outstanding border issues in the southern Sahara. There have however been no further actual clashes.
1967 and Yom Kippur Wars
The 1973 Yom Kippur War was the fourth major conflict between Israel and the neighboring Arab States. Like many other Arab States, Algeria contributed to the fighting in the Yom Kippur War. The Algerian government sent squadrons of fighters and bombers along with an armored brigade.
Algerian Civil War
The Algerian Civil War was a bloody conflict between the Algerian government and various radical Islamic militias. The conflict lasted from 1991 to 2002 when the Islamic Salvation Army surrendered to the government but minor skirmishes still continue in parts of the country.
During the conflict a series of massacres took place. The Armed Islamic Group has claimed responsibility for many of them. For others no group has claimed responsibility. In addition to generating a widespread sense of fear, these massacres and the ensuing flight of population have resulted in serious depopulation in the worst-affected areas.
References and notes
- World Navies
- "World Armies": John Keegan; ISBN 0-333-17236-1
- "A Savage War of Peace - Algeria 1954-1962": Alastair Horne; ISBN 0-670-61964-7