Algeria borders the Mediterranean Sea between Morocco and Tunisia in Northern Africa. Though originally settled by the Berbers in the 5th Century BC, Algeria was conquered by a number of ruling powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Turkish and French. Byzantine Arabs brought the Islamic faith to the region, and the country remains 99% Muslim today. Though Algeria earned its freedom from French colonialists in 1962, infighting among hard-line Islamist parties and more moderate factions led to violence and terrorist attacks that lasted throughout the 1990s. Since the US terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, Algeria has stepped forward to work with the US in thwarting terrorism worldwide. Though the country has been cited for numerous human rights violations over the years, officials from the United States and other nations have met with Algerian leaders to affect an open-door trade policy and agreements to work toward shared international goals.
Lay of the Land: A part ofthe Maghreb, or western part of Arab North Africa, Algeria borders the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia. Algeria is more than three times the size of Texas. Its name is Arabic for “the islands,” and it is believed to be a reference to the 998 kilometers of coastline beside the rocky islands of the Mediterranean. The country is mostly high plateau and desert with some mountains. The Sahara desert covers 80 percent of the entire country.
The Berbers, a people from the northern part of Africa, first populated Algeria in the 5th Century BC. The Berbers were influenced by Carthaginians, Romans, and Byzantines. However, several other powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Turkish and French, all conquered the area in successive waves.
In 2009, the US imported approximately $10.7 billion in goods from Algeria. Oil, liquefied petroleum gases, other petroleum products, and natural gases account for more than 99% of US imports from Algeria. While these imports grew steadily from 2003 to 2008, they all dropped sharply in 2009. American imports of crude oil from Algeria grew from $1.3 billion in 2003 to $11.5 billion in 2007, but dropped down to $6.25 billion in 2009. Liquified petroleum gases, which was at an all-time high in 2008 at $4.7 billion, declined to $2.0 billion, and other petroleum gases fell from $561 million to $213 million.
French Campaign Poster, “Islamist Threat,” Directed at Algeria
Algeria's government continued to fail to account for thousands of persons who disappeared in detention during the 1990s. Other significant human rights problems included restrictions on political party activity limiting the right to change the government peacefully; reports of abuse and torture; official impunity; prolonged pretrial detention; limited judicial independence; denial of fair, public trials; restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, and especially association; security-based restrictions on movement; limitations on religious freedom, including increased regulation of non-Muslim worship; corruption and lack of government transparency; discrimination against women; and restrictions on workers' rights.
Robert S. Ford earned a Bachelor of Arts from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Arts from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins in 1983. Following his graduation, Ford served with the Peace Corps in Morocco. Ford entered the Senior Foreign Service in 1985. He has served in posts such as Izmir, Cairo, Algiers, and Yaounde. Ford was Deputy Chief of Mission in Bahrain from 2001 until 2004, as well as the Coalition Provisional Authority Najaf, Iraq (from August to December 2003). He also served as political counselor to the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2004 to 2006. He speaks German, Turkish, French, and Arabic.
Abdallah Baali has served as Algeria's ambassador to the United States since Nov 5, 2008.
A native of Portland, Maine, David D. Pearce serves as the US Ambassador to Algeria. He was appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the US Senate on May 27, 2008 and sworn in on August 11, 2008.