Is Algeria Next for the Islamic State?

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Fighting jihadi groups has been compared more than once to whack-a-mole. You thump a group here and it pops up there. You thump it again and it pops up somewhere else. A front is lost but another opens up. The challenging part is anticipating where the jihadis will go next. And this is precisely the question around the Islamic State in Libya: having lost their stronghold in Sirte, where did all the fighters go, and where are they likely to pop up?

One possibility is next door in Algeria. Were the Islamic State to establish itself there, it could potentially destabilize Africa’s largest country, with ramifications for its neighbors and across the Mediterranean. An unstable Algeria would worsen prospects for Tunisia’s failing fledgling democracy. It would allow jihadi groups in northern Mali greater maneuverability and strain the reach of ongoing French regional counterterrorism operations. Morocco, which is already frenetically disrupting Islamic State plots, would likely be unable to keep pace with new cross-border threats. And the complicated circumstances for Europe, where recent terrorist attacks have all had North African ties, would be even more so. Plus, as a major supplier of natural gas to Europe, the Islamic State could disrupt Algeria’s gas exports, which would push up European energy prices and increase Russian leverage over the EU.

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