The Gendarmerie Nationale serves as the main rural police force. It was commanded in 1993 by Major General Abbas Ghezaiel, who reported directly to the minister of national defense. In 1993 gendarmerie personnel constituted a total force of 35,000. Although generally regarded as a versatile and competent paramilitary force, the gendarmerie since 1988 has been severely tested in dealing with civil disorder. It frequently has lacked sufficient manpower at the scene of disorder and its units have been inadequately trained and equipped for riot control. The gendarmerie, however, has demonstrated the ability to root out terrorist groups operating from mountain hideouts.
The gendarmerie is responsible for maintaining law and order in villages, towns, and rural areas; providing security surveillance over local inhabitants; and representing government authority in remote regions, especially where tensions and conflicts have occurred in the past. The gendarmerie is organized in battalions, whose component companies and platoons are dispersed to individual communities and desert outposts. Its regional headquarters are in the same cities as the six military regional headquarters; it has subdivisions in the forty-eight wilayat. A highly mobile force, the gendarmerie possesses a modern communications system connecting its various units with one another and with the army. Gendarmerie equipment includes light armored weapons and transport and patrol vehicles. The force in 1993 had forty-four Panhard armored personnel carriers, fifty Fahd armored personnel carriers, and twenty-eight Mi-2 light helicopters. In addition to utilizing training provided by the French since independence, the gendarmerie operates its own schools for introductory and advanced studies. The gendarmerie's main training center is at Sidi Bel Abbes, the former headquarters of France's Foreign Legion. The academy for officers is at Isser, about 150 kilometers east of Algiers.
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