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Algerian Army

The People's National Army (ANP) is the land force of the Military of Algeria, the second largest army in North Africa after that of Egypt. The army's personnel strength of 105,000 in late 1993 included 65,000 conscripts. The army's size nearly doubled after 1978, largely to prepare for possible hostilities with Morocco over the Western Sahara. After reaching a manpower strength of 120,000 in 1992 to deal with the pressures of domestic disturbances, financial considerations required a cutback in personnel. The army commander appointed in the spring of 1992 was Major General Khelifa Rahim, who also served as deputy chief of staff of the armed forces.

Territorially, Algeria is divided into six numbered military regions, each with headquarters located in a principal city or town. This system of territorial organization, adopted shortly after independence, grew out of the wartime wilaya structure and the postwar necessity of subduing antigovernment insurgencies that were based in the various regions. Regional commanders control and administer bases, logistics, and housing, as well as conscript training. Commanders of army divisions and brigades, air force installations, and naval forces report directly to the Ministry of National Defense and service chiefs of staff on operational matters.

During the 1980s, most of the army's combat units were concentrated in Military Region II (Oran) and to a lesser extent in Military Region III (Bchar). Adjacent to Morocco, region III straddles the main access routes from that country and includes most of Algeria's hydrocarbon and manufacturing industries. It is also near the troubled Western Sahara, embracing territory previously claimed by Morocco.

Much of the internal disorder and violence associated with economic distress and the Islamist movement has occurred in Military Region I (Blida), which includes the capital of Algiers, and Military Region V (Constantine). Army units have been strengthened in and near the cities where attacks against the government and security forces have occurred. Although regional commanders were originally all colonels, the commanders of region I (Mohamed Djenouhat) and region V (Abdelhamid Djouadi) were both promoted to major general in 1992. The two southeastern jurisdictions--Military Region IV (Ouargla) and Military Region VI (Tamanrasset)--are sparsely populated tracts of desert where a limited number of combat troops carry out patrols and man small outposts. The Ouargla region assumed a measure of strategic importance after relations with Libya soured, but the military's main activities there and in region VI are the construction and planting projects undertaken by conscript forces.

Originally organized as independent infantry battalions, the ANP decided in 1966, based on Soviet advice, to form four mechanized divisions. However, logistical problems and the high cost of associated heavy weaponry soon forced a reassessment of the plan. In 1992 the army again began to reorganize on a divisional basis; hence some units were in a state of flux.

According to The Military Balance, 1993-1994, in 1993 the army's main combat units consisted of two armored divisions, each with three tank regiments and one mechanized regiment, and two mechanized divisions, each with three mechanized regiments and one tank regiment. Furthermore, in 1993 there were five motorized infantry brigades and one airborne special forces brigade. Each infantry brigade consisted of four infantry battalions and one tank battalion. In addition, in 1993 the army had seven independent artillery battalions, five air defense battalions, and four engineering battalions. The brigades had authorized personnel levels of 3,500 men, but all units were believed to be understrength.

Twelve companies of desert troops, each with about 400 men, functioned as border guards. Originally these troops patrolled on camels, but by the 1980s they relied extensively on light reconnaissance vehicles. Two special riot units, said to number about 15,000 men, were assigned to maintain civil order. In addition to other riot-control equipment, they reportedly were armed with shotguns.

By 2008 possible reorganization into a divisional structure is on hold. Major army units include two armored divisions, three mechanized divisions, one airborne division, one independent armored brigade, and five independent mechanized infantry brigades. Additional battalions are as follows: 20 independent infantry, two artillery, five air defense, and six antiaircraft artillery. The 8th Armoured Division based at Sidi Bel Abbes was formed from the 8th Armoured Brigade after 1988. Another is the 40th Mechanised Infantry Division apparently based in the Third Military Region. The mission of the 40th Division is usually the protection of the Algerian-Moroccan frontier.

The army was well equipped with both older and more up-to- date models of Soviet armor and artillery. In 1993 it had nearly 1,000 tanks, including more than 600 T-62s and late-model T-72s. About 200 T-72s had been delivered since 1990. Earlier versions of wheeled armored personnel carriers (APCs), the Soviet BTR-50 and BTR-60, had been supplemented by BMP-1 and BMP-2 tracked armored infantry fighting vehicles mounted with 73mm guns and a few with Sagger antitank missiles. The army's extensive artillery inventory was headed by Soviet 122mm and 152mm self-propelled howitzers. There were also more than 100 122mm, 140mm, and 240mm multiple rocket launchers in the inventory. The principal antitank weapons were the Soviet Sagger and the French Milan. In addition to a variety of towed and self-propelled air defense guns, the army had Soviet SA-8 and SA-9 vehicle-mounted surfaceto -air missiles (SAMs) and SA-7 man-portable SAMs.

According to the 2008 issue of The Military Balance, published annually by the International Institute for Security Studies, Algeria's army has the following equipment: 920 main battle tanks, 139 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,084 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 910 armored personnel carriers, 375 towed artillery, 170 self-propelled artillery, 144 multiple rocket launchers, 330 mortars, an unspecified number of antitank guided weapons, 180 recoilless launchers, 300 antitank guns, at least 288 surface-to-air missiles, about 875 air defense guns, and an unspecified number of surface-to-air missiles.

As of 2005 Algeria planned to sign a contract worth $650 million for the purchase of 300 T-90-S main battle tanks from Russia. Algeria buys more Russian weapons than any other African country. It received 18 Smerch (Tornado) multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) and radio-technical reconnaissance systems during the ten years 1995-2005. When president of Russia, Vladimir Putin offered to cancel debts incurred by Algeria for these Soviet-era arms transfers in exchange for new arms orders. In March 2006, during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Algeria, both countries signed a large package of contracts worth about $8 billion, including four S300PMU air defense systems, 38 Pantsir S1 short-range missile-gun systems, 185 T-90S tanks and 218 Kornet-3 anti-tank missile systems. The Nizhny Tagil-based Ural Railroad Car Works [Uralvagonzavod], a leading Russian tank manufacturer, decided to supply the first 40 T-90S tanks in 2007, rather than in 2006. By 2007 the contract for the delivery of Pantsir S1 short-range anti-aircraft guns seemed problematic. The Tula-based instrument-making design bureau had obligations to deliver the systems to Algeria, Syria, the UAE and to a fourth unidentified country. Considering that deliveries to the UAE have been significantly delayed, problems with the other countries are also quite probable. The UAE was to have received 50 Pantsir-S1s in 2003-2006. However, the systems will only be delivered by 2010, starting in late 2007.

During the early years of the army's modernization in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of ANP officers went to the Soviet Union for training. Since then, Algeria has established its own military academies, although Russian advisers were still attached to the ANP in 1993. Strategic and tactical doctrine continues to be based on Russian models. Basic army cadet training is conducted at the military academy at Cherchell, west of Algiers, the site of a French interservices military school taken over by the government in 1963. Officer candidates attend for three years, generally followed by a year of specialized training before being commissioned and assigned to field units. The Cherchell academy also includes a staff college for advanced training of a limited number of field-grade officers of all branches.

A number of other institutions are used to train army personnel. Among these are the school for technical, administrative, and logistical training at El Harrach, just southeast of Algiers; the school for armored units at Batna; the school for artillery units at Telerghma near Constantine; the school for infantry commandos at Biskra; the school for communications technicians at Bougara, on the outskirts of Algiers; and the school for desert cavalry units at Ouargla.

The army's NCOs are trained at Ksar el Boukhari, about 100 kilometers south of Algiers, where they receive instruction in leadership, principles of command and control, tactical deployment, and political indoctrination. The NCOs are often used in command positions in smaller tactical units.

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