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A Mobile Army Without Pity

From the very beginning of the insurrection, Algeria is split into six zones which will become wilayas, regional and political cadres which are at the heart of the Army of National Liberation (Armee de Liberation NationaleALN). As is the case with the provinces, the six wilayas are themselves divided into mintakas, which are then in turn split into smaller regions, each of which is composed of several sectors. The ALN is made up of battalions (faileks), themselves made up of companies (katibas) which are divided into squads (ferkas). Each of these units is assigned an area in keeping with its capabilities in terms of scale and manpower. Important concentrations are rare and are usually no larger than a katiba. Each waliya is commanded by a colonel, each zone by a captain, each region by a lieutenant and his cadets, and each sector by an adjutant and his sergeants. The commandos and flying squads of each zone are commanded by lieutenants. The wilaya council, commanded by the colonel, also contains a military adjutant, a political adjutant, an intelligence officer, a propaganda officer, and a financial officer. The regular soldiers are known as djounouds or mujahedeen. The other volunteers or support personnel are drawn from the Politico-Administrative Organization (OPA) of each Wilaya. The latter are often given missions with a focus on intelligence, sabotage, or liaison. They also represent the semi-public face of the organization. Urban terrorism is usually assigned to volunteers. The zone commandos are the elite of the ALN. Well equipped and well-trained, they are charged with carrying out more difficult missions. As a result of the guerilla and clandestine nature of the conflict, the FLN has at its disposal a military force which, even if it is unable to defeat the French military in open engagements, is still able to maintain sufficient presence on the ground to attain the political goals sought by its leaders. The combat value of the ALN depends almost entirely on the nature of the terrain in which the struggle is to be fought. The plains of Oranie are decidedly unfavorable, while the Aures, Kabylie, and Ourasenis are particularly well-suited to guerilla operations. Formation Fire Team (zoumra) Squad (fawj) Company (fassila) Size 3-5 men 11-13 men 35-45 men in 3 sections Commander El djoundi el aouel 1 El ariff, 2 El djoundi el aouel 1 commander of variable rank, who also serves as political officer, plus 3 El ariff, 6 el djoundi el aouel 1Sagh el aouel, 2 adjutant (1 military, 1 political)

Battalion (kaiba) Division (qism) Zone (mintaka)

105-115 men Several battalions Several division

The territory of Waliya 1 comprises the regions of Batna, Khenchela, Biskra, Tebessa, and Souk-Ahras, as well as the south and the areas around Constantine. The first commander of this area is Mustapha Ben Boulaid, the fox of the Aures, who, captured by the French, was able to escape and finally met his end in attempting to recover an abandoned French radio which had been booby trapped. A few months later, in June 1956, the paras of Bigeard suffer heavy casualties in this wilaya which, after having been the strongest bastion of the rebellion at the beginning of the war, never recovers from the loss of Ben Boulaid. Among his successors is

Cherif Mahmoud, a former lieutenant in the French army turned deserter. At the moment of independence, Si Tahar Sbiri will take command. Covering the area to the north of Constantine, Waliya 2 includes the regions of Constantine, Phillipeville, and Bone. Initially under the command of Mourad Didouche, who perishes in January of 1955. His successor, Youssef Zighout, disappears in September 1956. Lakhdar ben Tobbal and Ali Kafi succeed him. In May of 1955, Ben Tobbal is able to occupy the town of El-Milia for several hours and even risks and attack on the command post of colonel Ducournau. In August of the same year, this region will see the infamous massacres of Phillipeville and El-Halie. Waliya 3 covers Grande Kabylie. It is by far and away the best equipped and most powerful region in which the ALN holds sway. Initially given to Belakem Krim who is at the time a command assistant in Ouamrane, this wilaya is then commanded by Mohammed Said, a veteran of the L.V.F. (Legion de Volontaires FrancaisFrench WWII era facist organization) who is in turn replaced by Amirouche. The head and mother of all the wilayas, Wilaya 3 maintains a solid political establishment based in part on its forces military actions. Belkacem Krim and Amirouche are redoubtable fighters for the French generals who are charged with pacifying the area. Broken down into three zones, Wilaya 4 comprises Algiers and its suburbs, and maintains a peculiar autonomous status. No fewer than eight colonels will lead this province where the settling of scores will be as frequent as it is violent. It is in this region that the Algerian communists, in particular lieutenant Guerrab, as well as the deserting cadet Maillot, will create the maquis organizations which will be destroyed in turn. It is also in this zone that in 1957 the paras of Bigeard will inflict a severe defeat on the mujahedeen. Wilaya 5 covers the area around Oranie, and is first the domain of Larbi Ben Mhidi, who will be succeeded by Boussouf, who will in turn be succeeded by the future colonel Boumediene. The zone benefits from its rear bases in Morocco, and its forces will be generally well equipped, if surprisingly inactive. A poor cousin of the other zones, Wilaya 6 covers all of the southern territories, from Boussaada to Laghourat. It is in this region that the zone, traditionally more strongly aligned with the rival M.N.A. of Messali Hadj, will fail general Bellounis after he is chased from Kabylie by Amirouche and Sadek. The fighters of the ALN must be pitiless for they well know that the only options for them are victory or death. They are waging a revolutionary war against a powerful enemy which has at its disposal great resources with which to effectuate search and destroy operations, as well as encirclements and choke points. When a katiba is pinpointed, its days are usually numbered. The French rapid reaction forces, upon having located a concentration of enemy forces, can be counted upon to quickly respond and destroy the formation in detail. As such, discipline is

harsh. The loss of a weapon, even an act as minor as the damaging of a rifle stock, can result in a military tribunal and quick, summary execution. Purges are common and are often known to negatively impact the morale of the men. However, despite the hard life and borderline existence of the maquis, as well as the short life span of most guerillas, volunteers are never in short supply. In the summer of 1957, the ALN reaches the height of its power. At this point in time, it can count on 40,000 men under arms, as well as an additional 60,000 auxiliaries and volunteers. However, the strikes of the French forces on this military nevertheless sap its combat effectiveness, and undermine the morale of the colonels. Belkacem Krim, Ouamrane, Boussouf and Ben Tobbal meet in early 1958 to draw upon the lessons of the previous campaigns. Among their conclusions, they seek to establish a stronger line of communication between the zones and the two combat commands located in Ghardimaou, Tunisia, and Oujda, Morocco. Additional rear bases are established in Tripoli, Tunis, and Nador, but the liaison between the forces of the exterior and interior will become more and more difficult with the installation of the Morice Line with its electrified fences along the Tunisian and Moroccan border. The supply of weapons and military material becomes more and more tenuous with the establishment of these frontier posts, as well as the hot pursuit employed by the French air forces. In November of 1958, the command authority of the ALN will uncover a colonels plot; in Tunisia, the GPRA is accused of being too soft with regards to Bourguiba, the Tunisian president, who walks a fine line with regards to the freedom of movement and operations he allows the FLN and ALN within his borders. In early 1959, the ALNs border force will consist of 15,000 men (10,000 in Tunisia and 5,000 in Morocco) while on the whole the ALN of the interior will have at its disposal 80 companies of varying strength and effectiveness. The situation will rapidly become untenable for the mujahedeen, insofar as their ability to strike will continue to deteriorate as general Challe receives greater and greater means with which to strike decisive blows against the insurgency.