Guest Post–A Personal Perspective on Algeria
Greg Wrightstone is a petroleum geologist who has worked all over the world, including Algeria. I received Greg’s email only a few days ago, but as we have seen on the nightly news, his prediction has come true.
If you want an inside perspective on the Islamists and Algeria, I am pretty familiar with the issue. The Algerian’s don’t screw around with terrorists, in fact, the way they dealt with them should be a road map for all countries.
I worked on an Algerian project in the north of the country (outside of the military exclusion zone) beginning in 2001 for Gulf Keystone. I spent time in Algiers and traveled with GKP’s COO. We had some more than interesting adventures.
The current hostage situation is located in the southeast part of the country within the Great Sahara Desert and in the “military exclusion zone” where access is restricted to oil field workers and some of the native Bedouin. This must have been a sophisticated well planned operation to have gotten that many militants into the area and they likely came across the Libyan border just east of the site.
But the story is that Algeria had bad problems with what they call the Islamists long before 9-11. Between 1992 and 1999, more than 80,000 people were killed in the Algerian Islamic Civil War. it was a battle against the government of Algeria and the Armed Islamic Group or GIA. In 1998 the country’s leaders had enough and mounted a huge campaign against them. Anyone suspected of being a terrorist was wacked and if Uncle Abdallah spoke up he got wacked too. And you know what? In less than a year they had driven most of the radicals out of the country. Did innocent civilians die? Clearly yes, but in the last year of the conflict more than 20,000 people lost their lives and within 18 months that number had plummeted to near zero.
I am not advocating the killing of innocents, but without the bloody and violent process initiated by the Algerian government, it is likely that many tens of thousands more would have died and the violence might still be going on.
When I was there in 2001 there was still a huge military presence, even in the north and roadblocks manned by scary looking dudes that all had Saddam Hussein moustaches and holding huge nasty German Shepherds that were not happy.
Based on what I know about the Algerians, the radicals that abducted the western gas processing workers yesterday are in for a relatively short period of the rest of their lives. If any survive, it will be because they are needed for information and then will be killed. Just a prediction, but the Algerians have a short fuse and will likely act first and let the chips fall where they may.