Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Niger and Mali to the south, Algeria is the largest country in Africa, according to the CIA World FactBook. The country covers a total of nearly 2.4 million square kilometers, most of it desert.
It is a popular tourist destination, with several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, nature preserves and national parks.
Algeria is one of 11 nations participating or observing in Exercise Phoenix Express 2012, a currently taking place in the Mediterranean Sea.
Religion: 99 percent Sunni Muslim.
Language: The official language is Arabic, with French and some Berber dialects also spoken.
History: Algerian culture dates back to at least the 5th century B.C. Remainders of a 750-kilomter Roman defensive barrier dating to the 4th century A.D can still be seen. Islam came to the region during the Arab invasions of the 8th and 11th centuries A.D., and is still the predominant cultural influence today. Algeria gained independence from France in 1954, and made several political reforms last year in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Geography: Mostly high plateau and desert, with the mountainous areas prone to strong earthquakes. A 2003 tremor killed at least 2,266 people, injured 10,261 and left 150,000 homeless.
U.S. partnerships: The U.S. allocated $950,000 in 2010 and 2011 for training Algerian military personnel in the U.S. under the International Military Education and Training Program. Algeria also participates in the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership, which focuses on enhancing counterterrorism capabilities, as well as the current Phoenix Express, a multinational naval security exercise.
“The Pledge:” Algeria’s national anthem, called “Quassaman,” or “The Pledge,” was written in 1956 in the wake of independence from France. The first verse states “We swear by the lightning that destroys, by the streams of generous blood being shed … that we are in revolt.”
This is the latest in our “Africa Snapshot” series, which takes a brief look at the countries in the AFRICOM area of operations. Click here for previous posts.