74. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 62-2-62


Summary and Conclusions

Seven years of rebellion and terror have left the Algerians weary, uncertain, and divided. Moreover, the established bases of the society and the economy have been altered; two-thirds of the Europeans have [Page 109] left the country, and 50 percent or more of the labor force is jobless. To a great extent the modern sector of the economy is in a state of collapse. Many enterprises have been abandoned by their owners, and the arteries of commerce and communication have broken down at many critical points. (Paras. 1, 4, 18-19)
The current period is one of relative political calm. Ben Bella has seized control, and for the moment at least has the support of the largest and best disciplined military force in the country. He is trying, during the present respite in political activities, to consolidate his political position, to improve his popular image, to impose his authority over the Armed Forces, and to revive the economy. (Paras 8-9, 15-16)
Ben Bella, who calls himself both an “Arab Socialist” and a Marxist, appears at the present time to be much closer to Nasser in policy and doctrine than to the Communists. This judgment, however, is based upon his words and actions to date on both national and international matters; there is as yet not enough hard evidence on the new regime to permit us to assess with any degree of finality Ben Bella’s basic philosophic leanings; he may indeed prove to be far more radical than he now appears. At the present time Ben Bella does not appear to be vindictive toward France, and he does not now plan major economic changes likely to affront major French interests. The Ben Kheddists, who oppose him, and Colonel Boumedienne, who now supports him, appear to be more radical than Ben Bella. (Paras. 9, 12-13)
Little has yet been accomplished in economic revival, and the chances are poor that much will be accomplished in the next few months. Thus, the population in the cities, now dependent upon foreign charity, may become increasingly frustrated, and living standards in the rural areas, already barely sufficient to sustain life, may be further driven down. (Paras. 18-23)
While Ben Bella’s immediate prospects for holding power are fairly good, we believe that within a year he will be confronted with severe political challenges. The intractible nature of Algeria’s economic problems, the somewhat chaotic conditions which will persist, and latent hostility to his rule in important sectors of the society, all will tend to undermine Ben Bella’s position. Any one of a number of oppositionist leaders might seek to exploit the dissatisfactions of the jobless, and there is always danger of unrest in the countryside. Ben Bella must also somehow establish his authority over the radical Defense Minister, Colonel Boumedienne, and a showdown between the two seems likley to occur sooner or later. If Boumedienne became tired of political infighting, if there were growing insecurity in the cities and subversion in the countryside, or if there were irresolution and confusion in the government, Boumedienne might simply step in and establish a military dictatorship. (Paras. 24-28)
We do not believe Algeria’s announced policy of nonalignment will be followed with purity and consistency. Already the Algerians have sided with Cuba against the US. But at the same time they are bound to France by a host of cultural and economic ties. The present leaders will probably not deliberately move toward the Soviet Bloc, but they probably will, more often than the US or France would like, support Communist initiatives on a variey of international issues. They will almost certainly accept military and economic assistance from the Bloc. Indeed, we cannot rule out the possibility that Ben Bella himself may adopt a more radical international stance in response to internal pressues or external blandishments. If a more radical leader—such as Boumedienne—succeeded Ben Bella, Communist influence and ideology in both domestic and foreign policy would probably significantly increase. (Paras 29, 31, 34-36)

[Here follows the Discussion section.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79 R 01012A, Box 215. Secret. According to a note on the cover sheet: “The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: “The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.” All members of the U.S. Intelligence Board concurred in this estimate on November 7 except the Atomic Energy Commission Representative and the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside their jurisdiction.