Rabat – Algeria has fired top foreign intelligence chief Major General Mohammed Bouzit after successive foreign policy losses for the country. The Algerian army’s Chief of Staff, Said Chengriha, named a replacement for the veteran intelligence officer after Bouzit’s second dismissal from the same post.
Bouzit, nicknamed “Youcef,” was in charge of the Directorate General of Documentation and External Security (DGDSE), Algeria’s state agency tasked with foreign intelligence. He came back to the position in April of 2020, replacing Colonel Remili Kamel-Eddine almost exactly one year after Bouzit was first sacked in March of 2019.
Algeria’s Defense Ministry announced that the army’s influential chief of staff ordered Major General Noureddine Makri to replace Bouzit.
The incoming head of Algerian intelligence is a veteran of foreign intelligence who observers know as a specialist on Western Sahara.
Makri, who carries the nickname “Mahfoud,” is an intelligence professional who many in Algeria see as particularly close to the Algerian-backed Polisario. His appointment at the expense of Major General Bouzit appears to be a direct response to the successive diplomatic losses Algeria has faced in recent months.
Several countries that were nominally under Algeria’s sphere of influence have shifted their stance after successful diplomatic efforts by Morocco. Through trade, development ties, and security cooperation, Morocco’s diplomats have minimized Algerian influence in both Mali and Libya.
Morocco was a key player in the early stages of negotiations in the LIbyan conflict and was one of the few countries that took a neutral position after the sudden removal of unpopular former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in a one-day bloodless coup by elements of the army.
While Moroccan efforts have contributed to regional stability, Algeria’s top leadership see them as losses. Lamenting its diplomatic failures, Chief of Staff Said Chengriha appears to have held Major General Bouzit responsible for the country’s waning regional influence.
Algeria’s leadership has increasingly pointed to foreign threats in order to galvanize domestic support.
With Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune again absent for medical treatment in Germany and an economy in crisis, Algerian leaders appear to be looking outwards for a scapegoat amid its own leadership struggles.
The choice of Major General Makri as Algeria’s replacement intelligence chief may indicate that Moroccan progress in regards to Western Sahara has been a particular thorn in the eye of Algerian military leadership.
Makri’s close association with the Algerian proxy Polisario is likely a sign of renewed efforts to turn the tide on Morocco’s recent diplomatic victories.