Shifting geopolitics and Algeria's new military doctrine

Shifting geopolitics and Algeria's new military doctrine
4 min read
In-depth: Algeria's hefty military budget for 2022 constitutes a fifth of all public spending, with many saying it reflects a changing military doctrine amid heightened border threats and Morocco's normalisation deal with Israel.

Algeria's Ministry of Defence has been allocated $9.3 billion for 2022, a fifth of total public spending, as the government sustains high levels of military investment to provide the armed forces with modern weapons procurement, army training, and updated defence systems in light of heightened security threats.

The army has also been tasked with enhancing its technical capabilities and raising the capability of its troops. Meanwhile, plans for new military bases to be established on the country's borders ready to combat any "emergency situation" have been drawn up.

Israel's burgeoning influence in the region is another major point of concern for the Algerian army leadership and one factor among several driving the generous budget, which is $700,000 higher than last year.

"Algeria's Ministry of Defence has been allocated $9.3 billion for 2022, a fifth of total public spending"

High military spending since 2009

2009 marked a pivotal year for the Algerian army in terms of its budget, which more than doubled that year, rising from $2.5 billion in 2008 to $6.5 billion. An upwards trend has continued, bolstered at first by increasing oil revenues which climbed in 2010 and the subsequent years, with military spending stabilising at between $9 and $10 billion since 2018, representing a significant portion of the country's public spending.

"The army today faces a number of new security challenges and the need to keep up with new developments in military systems and hardware," Ramadan Hamlat, a former general in the Algerian army, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic language sister publication.  

"Our military personnel need training to fight modern wars [...] and up-to-date military technology needs to be invested in". He pointed out that the country's security depends on careful strategic planning and investment to strengthen the army.

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Morocco-Israel defence pact

The Ministry of Defence made clear in the latest edition of "The Army", a military magazine, that ramifications to security in North Africa as a result of certain regional alliances - referring to the recent defence agreement between Morocco and Israel - necessitated constant vigilance and readiness for any emergency development.

The editorial emphasised the need to aim for "outstanding results" in all spheres related to the development of the armed forces.

Likewise, it opined that "the deterioration in the regional situation all along our border in addition to Algeria's targeting by certain actors, recently, even if indirectly, concerns us and pushes us to confront and eradicate these threats, and necessitates the continuous development of the Algerian army to confront and thwart hostile plans".

Relations between Algeria and Morocco have been tense for decades [Getty]
There has been a shift in the military doctrine that has existed since independence, analysts say. [Getty]

A transformation in Algeria's military doctrine

Aside from classic security threats faced by Algeria, such as terrorist groups active in the Sahel region and the need to provide effective protection to its oil and gas fields and facilities, Algeria's continuing high investment in the military points to another factor: a noticeable change in the country's military doctrine, with a new focus on the capacity for pre-emptive action.

This concern revolves around the shifting power dynamics in the region and the need to prevent any disruption to the balance of power which could advantage Algeria's political rivals.

In light of this, Algeria has succeeded, in recent years, in building up its arsenal of submarines and aircraft, enhancing its naval and air force capabilities. It has also invested in modern missiles systems and upgraded the equipment of its ground forces in a drive to modernise.

"Israel's burgeoning influence in the region is another major point of concern for the Algerian army leadership and one factor among several driving the generous budget"

"The military budget is developing with aims to restructure the army, modernise it, and transition towards professionalism," Arbi Boumediene, who teaches political science at the University of Chlef and whose research focuses on military and state issues, said.

"There has also been a shift in the military doctrine that has existed since independence, and this is justified by increasing traditional threats in the form of competition with Morocco, and the growing threats on the borders, especially asymmetric threats. However, it is the diversity of new threats that is pushing increasing military spending," he added.

"New threats have emerged in the environmental, health, electronic, and cyber spheres and these matters require different types of weapons, and a different doctrine, and thus increasing the budget is understandable and absolutely necessary".

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Despite the myriad justifications for the increasing military funding, some point out the issue of Algeria's very weak monitoring and oversight mechanisms when it comes to government spending. Parliamentary oversight of the military budget is essential to ensure there are no discrepancies and that public money is not disappearing into ineffective projects.

Likewise, ways for the army to self-finance are under consideration, such as developing factories for military hardware for export, especially to the rest of Africa. This has already been done with Mauritania, which has purchased military jeeps and tanks from an Algerian army-owned factory.

Other factories owned by the Algerian army manufacture machine guns and ammunition and assemble drones, naval vessels and video surveillance systems.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko