NARCO RoundUp: Looking Backwards and Forward


This issue of the NARCO RoundUp is a kind of retrospective on the last twelve months and a little forecasting for what’s to come. A lot changed. Libya defeated a lot of demons, but only to make room for some more. Algeria’s change is paradoxically incremental and disruptive, with the landscape shifting, but not in any determinate way. Tunisia’s changes seem to be mostly cosmetic. But a lot also stayed the same. Libya is still barely a state. Expected changes in leadership in Algeria failed to materialize. Tunisia is still a political, economic and security mess. What does it all mean? There will be a civil war in Libya. In Algeria, the state will have to manage its contract with society more carefully than it has in the last decade. And Tunisia will struggle to remain relevant.

NARCO RoundUp (November 2016)


The November NARCO RoundUp focuses on the impact that the incoming Trump administration in the US will have on politics, security and oil in North Africa. Trump’s affinity for strongmen and stability means that, apart from Libya where he’ll bolster Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, he is likely to leave the region well enough alone. The new US intelligence and security chiefs will probably take a much tougher (and less nuanced) stance on counter-terrorism in the region which is likely to sit well with the region’s governments. Political uncertainty, the higher likelihood of vioLent confrontation, and a former oil executive as Trump’s potential Secretary of State all point to upward pressure on oil prices, with winners and losers in the region.

NARCO CLOSEHOLD: Icarus in Algeria


For months Algerian institutions, both public and private, had been talking up the African Investment Forum. The event was going to showcase Algeria’s potential as an investment destination and its commitment to south-south development and cooperation. It was endorsed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was supported by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Industry, Commerce, and Energy, and was sponsored by the powerful Forum de Chefs d’Entreprise (FCE). North Africa Risk Consulting was told that it was going to harken back to the good old days of the 1970s when Algiers was a Third World pole, when it feted leaders from far and wide. Algeria was rediscovering itself and the event was going to broadcast to Africa north and south of the Sahara that it was back.

NARCO Analysis: President Trump & North Africa


It’s going to take a while for the dust to settle, but it’s possible nonetheless to tease out a couple of implications of a Trump presidency for North Africa. First, there are two very big unknowns.One is that it is not clear what Donald Trump’s actual foreign policy is. This is in part due to the fact that it is difficult to separate Trump’s bombast from what he will actually do and in part because he has no past against which to measure the future. The second is how the professional bureaucratic cadre in Washington, DC will engage with President Trump. There won’t be mass resignations in the Department of State or the Pentagon. So if the career diplomats and soldiers stay on, will they slow roll Trump’s policy initiatives or will they temper his more extreme tendencies?

NARCO RoundUp (October 2016)


At NARCO, we love Halloween, so the October NARCO RoundUp celebrates the Halloween spirit. Politics explores the theme of zombie governments and presidents who are “not dead yet.” Security looks at the fate of the Islamic State in Libya – where are all the corpses? We revisit Mokhtar Belmokhtar, simultaneously dead and alive (!), and in Tunisia we highlight on going ties between al-Qaeda in Algeria and its affiliate in Tunisia. Oil argues that Libya’s oil recovery is an unsustainable freak event, highlights how Algeria got its mojo back, and showcases the collapse of Tunisia’s extractives industry.

NARCO Analysis: Why Morocco is not Tunisia


The accidental death of a fishmonger in northern Morocco on Friday 28 October and the ensuing marches have generated lots of comparisons to Tunisia’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution. Then, a street vendor’s suicide sparked protests that led to the downfall of the Ben Ali regime. Now, in Morocco, as protests move into their third day, people are starting to speculate that Morocco is having its own revolutionary episode. But the comparisons between Tunisia 2011 and Morocco 2016 are knee-jerk.

NARCO Analysis: Libya's Oil War, Round Two


Since mid-September, Libyan oil exports have risen steadily. That rise is about to end and oil exports are likely to fall again in the next several weeks. Libyan oil exports’ ascent was due to a surprise move last month by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar. Haftar and his Libyan National Army seized Libya's four main export terminals from the separatist leader Ibrahim al-Jadhran and the Petroleum Facilities Guard. Having wrested control of the ports, Haftar announced that he would resume exports immediately.

NARCO RoundUp (September 2016)


In the September NARCO RoundUp, we look at Libya’s September surprise, the rise of Ali Haddad in Algeria, and Morocco’s legislative elections. The Security section examines persistent risks in Libya, Algeria’s counterterrorism chest thumping, and Morocco’s struggles to stay ahead of the jihadi curve. In Oil, Libyan oil had a wild month, Algeria’s new Minister of Energy is in the spotlight for the first time, and Morocco is doubling down on renewables in the run up to COP22 in Marrakech. 

NARCO Analysis: To Haftar and Haftar Not in Libya


It may not be checkmate for the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Misratans in Libya, but they certainly got played by General Khalifa Haftar, the strongman leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA, which one Facebook page has listed aptly as a “local business.”) While Misrata and the GNA were focused on defeating the Islamic State in Sirte – doubtless a worthy fight – Haftar stayed away and conserved his assets for what he sees as the bigger prize – Libya’s oil infrastructure.

NARCO RoundUp (July/August 2016)


In the July/August NARCO RoundUp, we look at Libya’s failed political process, Algeria’s aging leadership, and Tunisia’s new government. The Security section discusses the Islamic State’s defeat in Libya, Algeria’s elimination of the Islamic State within its borders, and new risks for Tunisia. Lastly, the Oil section considers the collapse of Libya’s oil sector, a strange episode in Algiers, and Tunisia’s new minister of energy.



NARCO CLOSEHOLD is timely, actionable analysis derived from discreet sources. NARCO CLOSEHOLDs are crafted as events merit. They are available to NARCO's subscription and retainer clients and on a case-by-case basis.

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