Is the Maghreb the "Next Afghanistan"?: Mapping the Radicalization of the Algerian Salafi Jihadist Movement

by Noureddine Jebnoun (2008)

Dr. Jebnoun notes that 2007 was one of Algeria's most violent years since the "red decade" of the 1990s. The December 11th attacks in Algiers were the latest in a long line of bombings that had increased in intensity since February 2007, when seven bombs exploded simultaneously, killing at least six people in the southeast area of the city. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM) modus operandi shifted from targeting Algerian security and military installations to attacking governmental facilities and foreign interests with simultaneous suicide attacks.

The paper illustrates how forecasts about Islamist political extremism in North Africa have enhanced regional governments' geostrategic positioning in the "Global War on Terror" by strengthening their diplomatic and military ties to the United States. Speculations and warning about the "Afghanistan-ization" of North Africa have not, however, contributed to the development of a viable interpretive framework for assessing the contexts and interests underpinning radicalization. "In reality, the threat level in the Maghreb in general, and in Algeria in particular, can only be understood by taking the internal political situation into consideration," Jebnoun stressed.

Dr. Jebnoun argues that a completely reformed American security plan for the Maghreb region is imperative. He suggests that the U.S. incorporate "soft power" initiatives in order to strengthen regional economic progress, promote good governance, and facilitate political transition.

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