Among Algeria's neighbors, only Morocco and Libya could be viewed
as potential military rivals. The active personnel strength of
Morocco's armed forces was greater than the strength of Algeria's
force, but its army was inferior in terms of armored vehicles
and artillery. The Moroccan combat air force of French and United
States fighter aircraft was smaller than the Sovietequipped Algerian
air force. Libya's equipment inventory--armor, artillery, and
combat aircraft--was greater than either Morocco's or Algeria's,
but its ground forces were much smaller. The Libyan navy was somewhat
larger than that of Algeria (see
Unusual geographic features present Algeria's military leadership
with special challenges in protecting the security of the country's
borders. In 1993 most of the population of approximately 27.4
million in 1993 was concentrated within 100 kilometers of the
coast, with the density diminishing rapidly from north to south.
The vast, unpopulated stretches of the Sahara Desert to the south
would be difficult to defend against a strong and determined adversary.
Algeria's western flank south of the Atlas Mountains would be
especially vulnerable to a Moroccan attack, inasmuch as Moroccan
forces would benefit from shorter communication and supply lines.
Between Béchar and Tindouf, the strategic highway that roughly
follows the Moroccan border could easily be severed, thereby breaking
Algeria's only ground link to the mineral-rich Tindouf area and
its connections with Western Sahara and Mauritania. In the northwest,
however, the Atlas Mountains would act as a barrier discouraging
invasion of the more populous parts of either country by the other.
The problems facing Algeria in the west are duplicated in the
southeast, where the lengthy border area with Libya is isolated
from the remainder of the country. A tenuous link to the region
is provided by a road reaching the border town of Edjeleh, but
it would be difficult to mount a defense of this remote area in
the face of Libya's superiority in combat aircraft and armor.
In the far south, a trans-Saharan route branches before the border,
connecting Algeria to Mali and to Niger. Fortunately, in view
of the distances involved and the weak transport links, Algeria
faces no serious threat from either country. Algerian border police
have expelled nomadic Tuareg and black Africans who were refugees
from the Sahel drought or engaged in black-market trading. Demarcation
agreements were concluded with Mali and Niger in 1983.
Tunisia, with its small armed forces, has never presented a security
problem for Algeria. A twenty-year disagreement over the border
delineation with Tunisia was settled in 1983. Algeria and Tunisia
have generally united when faced with Libyan bellicosity. When
in 1985 Tunisia came under pressure from Libya in the form of
border troop movements and violations of Tunisian air space, Algeria
supported Tunisia by moving its troops to the border area. Algeria
also signed a border agreement with Mauritania in 1985, after
three years of negotiation.
Data as of December 1993