Declassified CIA reports have brought about some teeth-grinding in Algiers as well as in the headquarters of the Polisario in Tindouf. The CIA declassified documents are actually so embarrassing for the Polisario and Algerian leaders.
In countless memos on the Western Sahara issue at its beginnings in the Seventies, the CIA does not mention the Sahrawi Front, but speaks only of the conflict between Morocco and Algeria. It is only in later documents dating back to the mid-1980s, that the CIA reports start alluding to the Polisario, stating from the onset that the Sahrawi separatist movement is “supported by Algeria.”
The most embarrassing declassified documents for the Algeria-Polisario couple are probably those that were drafted at the very beginning of the Moroccan-Algerian conflict around the Sahara. “In keeping with its carefully cultivated anticolonial image, Algeria has publicly supported the decolonization of the Sahara,” the CIA says.
The US intelligence agency explains the reason behind this stand, underlining that Algeria “has steadfastly maintained that it is an interested party with political and security interests to protect.”
According to CIA analysts, “The realities of Algeria’s position are far more complex; the Sahara is but one aspect of the larger problems of overall relations with Morocco and Maghreb stability. The suspicious Algerian mentality views all neighbors as potential enemies—especially Morocco, with a political system and ideology that differ radically from Algeria’s.”
In another document dated 18 March 1987, the CIA considered that after a decade of armed confrontation, the conflict seems to have no outcome, and although Morocco and Algeria want to prevent a vast conflict, their competition for pre-eminence in the Maghreb poses potential dangers for the United States.
At the time, the Americans were already talking about autonomy in the Sahara as a possible way to settle the issue between the two neighboring countries. “The most suitable diplomatic solution could be based on the concept of a federation including the sovereignty of Hassan II over the territory against a degree of autonomy for the Polisario. This kind of compromise could allow Algeria to emerge from this conflict without conceding its defeat,” says one of the CIA memos.