This article details the background to the Algerian military establishment that assumed effective control of the country upon independence from France in 1962 and its subsequent internal power struggles between the likes of Iban Ramadan, Ahmad Ben Bellah and Houwari Boumedienne. While the Algerian adage that ‘some states have an army, but in Algeria, the army has a state’ has had a degree of applicability – especially throughout the 1960s and 1970s, there have been various attempts by Algerians to carve out a political sphere independent from the military. Chastened by the bloody experiences of the crucible in the wake of the abrogated 1992 elections – when the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) had emerged victorious, the army which had paid a heavy price in casualties and damage to its reputation sought to distance itself from the political sphere. The author also makes the case that while independence from France was won primarily through the fighting and sacrifices of the Algerian army of the interior, the Revolution was co-opted largely by elements of the army of the exterior – from the border regions – which participated little or not at all in the actual liberation, but which would subsequently go on to revise history to imply that their role had been crucial to the process. With many of the most prominent figures of the independence generation either deceased or stepping down, and with their replacement by younger generations of officers who are patriotic but less dogmatic and more sympathetic to the Algerian people, the article provides essential background to current events and suggests that the ‘new’ Algerian military is distinct from the previous and more receptive to an enlarged political and civil space.

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