Pacification in Algeria, 1956-1958

Pacification in Algeria, 1956-1958

David Galula
New Foreword by Bruce Hoffman
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 325
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg478arpa-rc
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  • Book Info
    Pacification in Algeria, 1956-1958
    Book Description:

    When Algerian nationalists launched a rebellion against French rule in November 1954, France was forced to cope with a varied and adaptable Algerian strategy. In this volume, originally published in 1963, David Galula reconstructs the story of his highly successful command at the height of the rebellion. This groundbreaking work, with a new foreword by Bruce Hoffman, remains relevant to present-day counterinsurgency operations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4108-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Foreword to the New Edition
    (pp. iii-viii)
    Bruce Hoffman

    I felt I had learned enough about insurgencies, and I wanted to test certain theories I had formed on counterinsurgency warfare. For all these reasons I volunteered for duty in Algeria as soon as I reached France.

    Thus begins Lt Col David Galula’s account of his two years commanding a company of French troops in the Kabylia district, east of Algiers, at the height of the 1954–62 Algerian War of Independence. That uprising against French rule is remembered, if at all, as the last of the immediate post–World War II nationalist struggles waged by a colonized population against...

  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Figures
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xvii-xxv)
  7. [Map]
    (pp. xxvi-xxvi)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    I left Hong Kong in February 1956 after a five-year assignment as military attaché. I had been away from troop duty for eleven years, having specialized in Chinese affairs since the end of World War II. I was saturated with intelligence work, I had missed the war in Indochina, I felt I had learned enough about insurgencies, and I wanted to test certain theories I had formed on counterinsurgency warfare. For all these reasons I volunteered for duty in Algeria as soon as I reached France. When my four-month leave was over, I was assigned to the 45th B.I.C. (Colonial...

  9. PART ONE The Stage

    • I. The Background
      (pp. 5-13)

      The war in Algeria offers most of the usual characteristics of a revolutionary war.

      On the insurgent side, a small group of leaders aim at overthrowing the existing order. Their initial physical strength is almost nil. They have, however, two chief assets: (1) a cause by which they can attract supporters, and (2) freedom from any responsibility, and hence the possibility of using any means toward their ends, including terrorism to coerce neutrals and to cow enemies. They choose the population as their major strategic objective, because their assets then become immediately exploitable, and thus they balance the odds against...

    • II. Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Algeria
      (pp. 14-25)

      According to the orthodox pattern recommended by the Chinese Communists² for insurgencies in “colonial and semicolonial” countries, the insurgent must:

      (1) create and develop a strong, tested revolutionary party;

      (2) gather around it as large as possible a popular front;

      (3) then, and only then, proceed to open violence and initiate guerrilla warfare;

      (4) when bases have been acquired, organize a regular army and wage a war of movement;

      (5) having achieved overall superiority over the opponent, launch a final annihilation campaign.

      The first two steps in this process obviously require much time, patience, organizational effort, and plain luck. The...

    • III. The Situation in Kabylia
      (pp. 26-35)

      The Kabylia I am referring to is the territory known as Greater Kabylia, as distinct from Lesser Kabylia to the east of it. Shaped roughly like a semicircle facing the sea, it extends for over 60 miles east-west and 40 north-south, with an area of about 2,500 square miles. Terrain, vegetation, and population make it strikingly different from the rest of Algeria and combine to create an ideal ground for guerrilla warfare. Kabylia has always been the particular headache of every conqueror of North Africa, from the Romans to the Vandals, the Turks, and the French. It was the last...

    • IV. The Sector of Tigzirt
      (pp. 36-39)

      The sector of Tigzirt extended over an area approximately 13 by 13 miles and corresponded roughly to the administrative limits of thecommune mixteof Mizrana. It had no particular unity of its own geographically, demographically, economically, or otherwise. The sea (thank God) limited it on the north, or rather, I should say, sealed it; the eastern and western limits were somewhat artificially traced on the map; a highway from Tizi Ouzou to Tikobain served as its southern boundary.

      From the sea southward the terrain rose to a long crest that crossed almost the entire sector, its highest point at...

    • V. The Quartier of Aissa Mimoun
      (pp. 40-54)

      From the time of my arrival until October 1957, my battalion’squartiercovered most of Douar Djebel Aissa Mimoun (see Figure 3), an area 5 miles square northeast of Tizi Ouzou, limited on the north by Oued Stita (a dry river six months of the year, the embankments of which were covered with very thick bushes); to the west by Oued Sebaou (the largest river in Kabylia, passing through a deep gorge); to the south by the Tizi Ouzou-Tikobain highway; and to the east by an arbitrary line drawn so as to accommodate our neighbors of the 11th Hussards who...

    • VI. The 3d Company and Its Sous-Quartier
      (pp. 55-58)

      I took command of the 3d Company on the 4th or 5th of August 1956, the day the company returned from a large operation in the area of Blida in the zone Nord Algérois. Its temporary commander, Lt. Perrier,* a reservist on active duty, remained with me two days and then went on leave.

      The entire company was stationed in a dilapidated Kabyle farm, sharing the walled compound with the Aissa Mimoun SAS consisting of Lt. Villon,* a French sergeant, a French civilian radio operator, and twomokhazenis(native auxiliaries used as personal guards), one of whom was a Kabyle...

  10. PART TWO The Struggle for Control of the Population

    • I. The Strategic Problem
      (pp. 61-63)

      It was clear by July 1956 that a new phase had begun in the Algerian War. While the preceding period, from November 1954 on, had seen the rebellion expand and almost reach victory, the sheer size of the French forces at last available in Algeria frustrated the FLN’s hope for an early decision. It made it impossible, moreover, for the rebels to hold safe territorial bases, asine qua nonfor the development of a sizable regular army.

      The rebels could, however, expand their guerrilla forces and fight a war of attrition, calculating that lassitude on the part of the...

    • II. No Doctrine for the Counterinsurgent
      (pp. 64-68)

      As my activity fell within the framework of the static troops operating in rural areas, it is necessary to describe at this point how our task was conceived.

      After the war in Indochina, after the nationalist uprisings in Tunisia and Morocco, after the limited experiment in the Aurès Mountains, the general consensus was that this war could only be won if we succeeded in divorcing the rebels from the population. Although the rebel forces were now broken into small, ineffective bands—this was already an achievement on our part—military operations could not by themselves bring a complete, definitive victory....

    • III. My Own Theory
      (pp. 69-70)

      It is only fair to warn the reader that I too had an axe to grind. I had had broader experience in the business than most of my colleagues because I had been lucky enough to observe at first hand a revolutionary war conducted by the masters at the game, the Chinese Communists, in 1945–48. Immediately afterward, I was sent to Greece, where I expected to see another communist insurgency snowballing. I saw instead its defeat, a revealing experience. I had closely watched the events in Indochina and, thanks to my position in Hong Kong and to my relations...

    • IV. Indoctrination of My Company
      (pp. 71-73)

      My immediate task was to prepare my tool, the 3d Company, for the work ahead. After a few days spent touring thesous-quartier, checking the equipment inventory of the company, and listening to the cadres and the men, I called a meeting of all the personnel.

      I explained the nature of this war. Our forces were vastly superior to the rebels. Then why couldn’t we finish with them quickly? Because they managed to mobilize the population through terror and persuasion. And because of the support they got from the population, the rebel guerrillas were well informed on our moves, well...

    • V. An Operation at Sector Level
      (pp. 74-82)

      One day at the end of August 1956, Lt.-Col. Lemoine,* the sector commander, toured ourquartier. He seemed surprised to hear Major Laval* tell him that Oudiai and his twenty-five rebels were still roaming the area. “What? Such a large band after so many operations? We must go after them. I’ll see what reinforcement I can get from the zone.”

      The operation took place under Lt.-Col. Lemoine* a few days later. It was my first large operation. Since they all followed more or less the same pattern, I will describe it in detail.

      The purpose was to catch Oudiai’s band....

    • VI. Occasional Contacts with the Population
      (pp. 83-89)

      We were living among ourselves at Grand Remblai, isolated from the population. Very few civilians came to the SAS office and, if so, generally to request approval for an application to go to France to work. Approval was granted automatically by Lt. Villon* after a rapid check of the list of suspects.

      Second Lt. Paoli* and M/S Vignaux* repeatedly visited their respective hamlets nearby, continuing their propaganda work on the population and trying to make friends who would talk. So far they had met with no success. Villagers clammed up when asked if they knew anything about thefellaghas.

      I...

    • VII. Moving the Company Closer to the Population
      (pp. 90-97)

      We were now in September 1956. I had been at Grand Remblai long enough to realize that I would get nowhere if I stayed there. I was too far removed from my two main villages. Occasional contacts would never enable me really to control the population; I would have to move my company up the Djebel.

      Ighouna seemed a good place. There was sufficient room for most of the company plus the mules; I could be supplied by truck; and the water problem was solved thanks to a small reservoir filled by a spring at Tala Ilane, also accessible by...

    • VIII. A Platoon Detached to Igonane Ameur
      (pp. 98-108)

      In mid-September 1956, Major Laval* authorized me to establish a platoon at Igonane Ameur. I hoped in this way to tighten control over the population and to get the information needed to purge the village. I selected for this task my 2d Platoon, the main criterion being the personality of its leader, 2d Lt. Paoli,* in whom I had entire confidence. I made a few changes in personnel, replacing “warriors” with “pacifiers.”

      After months of continuous operations my men’s fatigues were in tatters. I wanted at least the 2d Platoon to arrive in the village with better-looking outfits. My request...

    • IX. Company Routine
      (pp. 109-114)

      While working on the population, I naturally kept the company busy tracking thefellaghasin mysous-quartier. We also took part frequently in operations in thequartieror outside. In the latter case, the battalion had to provide one or two companies formed for the occasion by drawing platoons out of each company; command of these temporary companies was given, by turns, to every company commander.

      In the absence of intelligence on the whereabouts of the rebels, operations in mysous-quartierwere simply a small-scale model of those I have already described for the sector. Thus I decided one day...

    • X. Accidental Purge of Bou Souar
      (pp. 115-124)

      Looking at the events retrospectively, I think I merited a break for all my efforts. I was at the end of my wits when the break came on November 2, 1956. I was eating lunch with 2d Lt. Dubois* at Ighouna when the orderly reported a Kabyle outside wanting to see me. I was in a bellicose mood, what with my Igonane Ameur curfew. If the man had come to ask a favor, he had chosen the wrong day. I went out and saw a frail old man sitting astride an ass. He gestured to be helped down. We sat...

    • XI. Expansion of My Sous-Quartier; Purge of the Other Villages
      (pp. 125-138)

      At the end of November 1956, my company was distributed as follows:

      Command Post, Command Platoon, 3d and 4th Platoons (less one squad) at Ighouna

      1st Platoon at Bou Souar

      2d Platoon at Igonane Ameur

      One squad at Grand Remblai

      Having occupied the two most important villages in mysous-quartier, I still had two combat platoons with me at Ighouna, where they could not be used as they should in pacification work. I did not like to see them wasted in futile military operations. I sought naturally to aggrandize mysous-quartier. I offered to take over the entire area within...

  11. PART THREE The Struggle for the Support of the Population

    • I. The Situation in Algeria in the Winter of 1957
      (pp. 141-144)

      A wit in my battalion used to say:

      “We will win this war all right, not because we are so clever but because the FLN are more stupid than we are.”

      Events were bearing him out, for, in spite of all our minor and major blunders, the general situation had taken a turn for the better by the early months of 1957. We were muddling through in strength, the rebels in weakness, and this made a difference.

      There had been the Suez campaign and the stunning defeat of the Egyptians by the small Israeli Army. True, the affair ended in...

    • II. The Municipal Reform
      (pp. 145-147)

      I do not know exactly who was responsible for the carving of the newcommunesin Kabylia. I was told it was the work of a young French anthropologist well acquainted with the area and the Kabyles. All I know definitely, however, is that neither the SAS officer nor I was consulted insofar as the Djebel Aissa Mimoun was concerned. We both learned officially one day that fourcommuneshad been created in mysous-quartier, namely Bou Souar, Igonane Ameur, Khelouyene, and Ait Braham, and we were shown their boundaries on a map.

      As it happened, large tracts of farm...

    • III. Cleaning Tizi Ouzou
      (pp. 148-156)

      Tizi Ouzou (“The Pass of Genista” in Kabyle, genista being a spiny shrub) is the capital of Greater Kabylia, located about seventy miles east of Algiers, to which it is linked by a railroad and a good highway. The town lies at the foot of Djebel Beloua, a 2,000-foot mountain covered with trees and shrubs and strewn with small villages.

      The city actually comprises two towns: the old one (or Kasbah) in the north, touching the slope of Djebe1 Beloua, a maze of narrow twisted lanes with inward-built houses; and the new one (or European town) spread south of the...

    • IV. Testing the New Leaders
      (pp. 157-167)

      To pick up once more the thread of events in my Aissa Mimounsous-quartier, the situation there, in March 1957, was as follows: I was well in control of the entire population. The census was completed and kept up to date, my soldiers knew every individual in theircommunes, and my two rules concerning movements and visits were obeyed with very few violations. My authority was unchallenged. Any suggestion I made was promptly taken as an order and executed. Boys and girls regularly went to school, moving without protection in spite of the FLN threats and terrorist actions against Moslem...

    • V. Mobilizing the Population
      (pp. 168-175)

      What constitutes victory in this sort of war? When does pacification end? My personal answer can be stated this way: victory is won and pacification ends when most of the counterinsurgent forces can safely be withdrawn, leaving the population to take care of itself with the help of a normal contingent of police and Army forces. It is therefore necessary to make the population participate actively in the counterinsurgent effort, to mobilize it in the struggle. Winning over the population through the various steps I have just described had no other purpose than to create the right climate for this...

    • VI. Limits to Local Efforts
      (pp. 176-179)

      No matter how much effort was devoted to pacification locally, we would find sooner or later that we had reached a plateau above which we could not rise. Two factors kept limiting our local achievements: the same old political instability in France, and the same old lack of a standard operational procedure in Algeria.

      I shall never be able to insist enough on these two points, for they were the key to our success and failure in the Algerian War.

      We were all trying to get a definite commitment from the Moslem population. We had every reason to believe that...

    • VII. Prisoners and Suspects
      (pp. 180-186)

      The rebels’ ALN (National Liberation Army) reached its peak in Algeria during the spring of 1957. Hastening to smuggle weapons and equipment from Morocco, and particularly from Tunisia, before our fences were completed, the rebel organization abroad succeeded in sending convoys loaded with automatic rifles, radio sets, light mortars, and ammunition. The convoys moved only at night, across the most difficult terrain, preceded days ahead by scouts who checked the paths and, with the help of the local OPA, organized feeding and hiding facilities for the men and the mules. A few of these convoys managed to reach Kabylia. I...

    • VIII. Further Expansion of the Sous-Quartier
      (pp. 187-193)

      The level of pacification reached in mysous-quartierby the summer of 1957 may be measured by the following signs:

      1. The only times that my soldiers had occasion to spend ammunition otherwise than in firing practice were in the two cases when a small rebel party harassed Igonane Ameur from a safe distance at night, and in the one encounter in which aharkiand afellaghawere killed.

      2. A severe epidemic of flu affected most of my men in the fall of 1957. In some of my posts, no more than four or five soldiers were well enough to...

    • IX. An Operation in the Mizrana Forest
      (pp. 194-199)

      The Mizrana Forest is a natural forest of corktrees and thick undergrowth, starting right on the coast and extending 7 km inland. It comprises two clumps of wood, the larger one triangular in shape with a base measuring about 0.5 km. The forest covers a hilly, rocky ground with sharp changes in level. Oued Taxibt cuts a deep north-south ravine and provides the only clear landmark. The forest is surrounded by a cluster of hamlets.

      This setting has always offered a natural refuge for bandits. With the rebellion, the Mizrana Forest became a haven for the guerrillas, a real base...

    • X. The Manpower Crisis in the French Army
      (pp. 200-204)

      The manpower problem in the French forces in Algeria, partly alleviated in 1956 by the recall of reservists for a short period, returned to plague us with a vengeance in the second half of 1957. The yearly levy of draftees, to begin with, was unusually small owing to the low birthrate in France during the 1930s. Military service, already extended to twenty-eight months, could not reasonably be lengthened at a time when we faced such a serious labor shortage at home that coal miners drafted in the Army had to be released immediately after their basic training in order to...

    • XI. Attempts at Organizing a Party
      (pp. 205-210)

      Assuming that by following my pacification technique we would identify friendly elements among the population, test them, and eventually establish them locally in positions of power, the fact remains that these leaders would still be politically isolated, each in his small area, yet facing an enemy politically and militarily organized on a national scale. As long as our forces stayed, we could control the situation with the help of the local leaders; but if we had to leave or if our forces were greatly reduced, the local leaders might be swept away by the rebels unless they were backed on...

  12. PART FOUR War in the Bordj Menaiel Sector

    • I. The Spring of 1958
      (pp. 213-232)

      The net result of my promotion was loss of direct command. While the French Army in the postwar period suffered from a severe shortage of lieutenants and captains owing to the attrition in Indochina and to the decrease in the number of applicants to our military academies, there was a large surplus of officers with the rank of major and above. Command of a battalion was hard to get; it was given directly by the Bureau of Personnel in Paris on the basis of seniority, the idea being that each major should have a chance to comply with the peacetime...

    • II. The Revolution of May 13 and Its Aftermath
      (pp. 233-240)

      On May 9, 1958, I was sent to attend a short course in air support given in Algiers, a welcome assignment because it meant that my wife could join me there from Paris. I was billeted at the officers club, which had been an old Janissary barracks under the Turks, with walls so thick that the rooms were pleasantly cool and soundproof.

      The air-support course was supposedly designed for majors and lieutenant-colonels, yet it differed in no way from the elementary course given to junior officers. This caused some initial grumblings, but we were all set to enjoy this break...

  13. PART FIVE Conclusions

    • I. Major Factors in the Algerian War
      (pp. 243-245)

      Every war is a special case, and the Algerian rebellion does not escape this rule even though it belongs in the general category of post–World War II revolutionary war. The important geographic factors, for one thing, are different in every instance. Thus, the proximity of Algeria to France (five hours by plane, thirty hours by ship) was in our favor: psychologically, because French public opinion was obviously more interested in events there than it had been in so remote a theater as Indochina; physically, because Algeria was so close to the center of France’s power and resources (it was...

    • II. Basic Principles of Counterinsurgent Warfare
      (pp. 246-248)

      Nevertheless, the fact remains that the war in Algeria broadly conformed to the characteristics of revolutionary war, and the essential “laws” of counterinsurgent warfare, as I see them, had to be respected by us. In all probability these laws will apply to counterinsurgencies elsewhere.

      The first law. The objective is the population. The population is at the same time the real terrain of the war. (Destruction of the rebel forces and occupation of the geographic terrain led us nowhere as long as we did not control and get the support of the population.) This is where the real fighting takes...

  14. Appendix 1 Mohamed Boudiaf’s Statement to Le Monde November 2, 1962
    (pp. 251-256)
  15. Appendix 2 Notes on Pacification in Greater Kabylia
    (pp. 257-270)
  16. Appendix 3 The Technique of Pacification in Kabylia
    (pp. 271-298)
    Captain D. Galula