Personnel and Recruitment
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
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
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.
Data as of December 1993