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Spanish newspaper: 'Algerian president withdraws Western Sahara file from army'

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Algerian president [Algérie résumé des infos/Facebook]
Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Algerian president, 25 May 2017 [Algérie résumé des infos/Facebook]

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has decided to establish the Algerian Agency for International Cooperation (AACI) which will be headed by Colonel Mohamed Chafik Mesbah, who has previously worked for the intelligence services.

Spanish newspaper Atalayar reported that the presidential initiative has two purposes, one of which is: "To curb the dominance of the army and the intelligence over the country's foreign policy."

The second goal, according to the newspaper, is: "To create suitable conditions for the presidency to regain control over the Western Sahara file and reacquire the jurisdictions to have a say in the strategic and political crisis that the Maghreb region is witnessing."

The Western Sahara issue file has contributed to rising tensions between Algeria and Morocco. Thus, opening this file in 1975 has led to closing land borders between the two countries since the summer of 1994.

The newspaper pointed out that: "One of the problems facing Algeria, in relation to its foreign policy, is undoubtedly the geopolitical and military aspects of the Western Sahara file."

READ: Morocco-Spain cooperation is unavoidable, despite territorial overlapping

"Regarding the military dimension of the file, which includes defending borders, deploying troops and creating military balances in the region mainly between Algeria and Morocco, President Tebboune does not have the power to interfere, at least for the time being, although he is the supreme commander of the armed forces and the minister of defence."

The newspaper indicated that instead, Tebboune can, and seems willing, to work on the "political aspect of the conflict".

According to the same source, one of the main tasks assigned to the AACI will be to provide Tebboune with a: "Detailed political and strategic report on the Western Sahara conflict and its future scenarios."

The newspaper suggested that appointing a former intelligence officer as the head of the AACI can bear more than one meaning. As such, Colonel Mesbah belongs to the intelligence's elite since the Houari Boumedienne era.

Those elite officers have undergone extensive university training, obtained academic degrees and speak multiple languages, in addition to being experts in economics, sociology and political sciences.

READ: Algerian Foreign Minister condemns Moroccan comments

This new elite were recruited by Colonel Kasdi Merbah, who for 20 years after the independence in 1962 built the basic structure of the intelligence services, held various ministerial positions and then headed the government before his assassination in 1993, by a fraudulent Islamist commando in Algeria.

Colonel Mesbah has repeatedly condemned the regime that ruled Algeria for 20 years, in light of Bouteflika's alliance with General Mohamed Mediene, who succeeded Mesbah in the intelligence services for 25 years.

Colonel Mesbah was appointed head of the AACI because Tebboune knows him well. On the other hand, the decision to task Mesbah with managing the agency was thoroughly evaluated by the decision-making circle in Algiers, as the former intelligence officer still has important connections in the armed forces and the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS). This particular point matters the most to the newly-elected president in his endeavour to engage in the new international policy, including Arab-African geopolitical arena, where Algeria wasted accumulated capital for 30 years, from 1955 to 1985.

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