Roberts, director of the Algeria Project and an analyst with the International Crisis Group, has published a collection of his articles written in the period 1987-2002 that plot the points along Algeria's path of deterioration. The turning point was the military's nullification of elections that would have brought the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) to power in 1992. From there, Algeria plunged into a decade of civil war, marked by brutal violence at the hands of both Islamists and anti-Islamist vigilante groups.
Roberts jumps from one topic to the next, so that a clear theme is difficult to extract. Instead, his book might be seen as a sampling of issues worthy of deeper analysis. One short essay is devoted entirely to how the 1990-91 Iraq crisis radicalized the FIS. The support of FIS for Saddam not only alienated FIS from the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) but also had a negative impact on other Arab governments that otherwise might well have supported FIS, such as Saudi Arabia.
Other important aspects tackled by Roberts include Algeria's identity, economics, democratization, Berbers, and the complex relationship with France—all topics vital to understanding the complicated landscape of the civil war that has ravaged Algeria.
Not once, however, does Roberts mention al-Qaeda, despite the fact that Osama bin Laden's network had succeeded in exploiting the pandemonium of Algeria since the mid-1990s. It did so first through the radical Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which was comprised largely of "Arab Afghans," who returned from battle in the late 1980s. Nor does he mention the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), actually created by al-Qaeda and responsible for most of the continuing bloodshed today. Both groups were listed by President George W. Bush in his September 23, 2001 executive order on terrorist financing; both are seen as threats to U.S. national security.
Roberts, however, does not seem terribly interested in their activities. Thus, Roberts' depiction of the "battlefield" is incomplete. Two of the primary armies in Algeria's battle are ignored.