Morocco Defense and Security

Morocco participates in two international peacekeeping missions, in the Ivory Coast (Unoci) and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco), in which it deploys two contingents of 718 and 844 soldiers respectively. The bulk of the troops that make up the Moroccan armed forces are instead engaged along the fortification lines in Western Sahara, whose control has been the priority national security issue for Rabat for more than thirty years. For Morocco defense and foreign policy, please check

Alongside Western Sahara, the other major security issue is the fight against Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorist threat: a more urgent issue since the country found itself, on the one hand, having to manage the possible internal repercussions of the support offered. to the US campaign against global terrorism and, on the other hand, to having to organize an effective response to the terrorist attacks that hit Casablanca in May 2003. Numerous arrests of Islamic fundamentalists suspected of links with al-Qaeda have been carried out. The campaign launched against the places of religious radicalism was also drastic which led, for example, to impose restrictions on the preaching of Wahhabism.

In its work to combat fundamentalism, the Moroccan government has not only focused on repression and on the planning of a new anti-terrorism law, but has also decided to allocate investments in the social sector, with the aim of reducing the areas of hardship in which radicalism finds more fertile ground, such as poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, urban decay. The threat posed by Islamic terrorism, however, came back in 2011, during the revolts that broke out in most of the Maghreb countries. In that year, the tourist city of Marrakech was hit by an attack: a bomb exploded in a bar in the main square, causing 17 victims, almost all foreign tourists. The attack brought to attention the issue of Qaidist terrorism also in Morocco and, at the same time, it prompted the government to crack down on security yet another. During his meeting with King Mohammed VI in 2013 in Washington, US President Barack Obama praised the Moroccan commitment in the fight against terrorism and in facing the threats to the security of the Saharan region, which is now also endangered by drug trafficking, human beings and arms trafficking.

The disputed sovereignty over Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a region bordering the Atlantic Ocean, squeezed between Morocco and Mauritania, and inhabited mainly by the Sahrawi people. It was a Spanish colony until 1976, the year in which Spain decreed the withdrawal from the region, having previously agreed on the division between Morocco and Mauritania. According to the agreement signed with the government of Madrid on November 15, 1975, Morocco would have been entitled to the northern two thirds of the former colony, which Rabat had already occupied following the so-called ‘Green March’: 350,000 Moroccans sent by King Hassan II over the border with Western Sahara to speed up the pace of Spanish demobilization and re-establish the ‘legitimate’ Moroccan sovereignty over the territories stolen from the kingdom during colonization. Mauritania, on the other hand,

The Polisario Front (Spanish abbreviation for Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro) was immediately opposed to the claims of Morocco and Mauritania, an independence movement already active in the region since the early 1970s, when it had distinguished itself in resistance against the Spanish presence. The partition provoked the double reaction of the Polisario Front, both military and political, with the proclamation of the birth of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (R asd) and the attempt to gain international support. The self-proclaimed republic, whose government has since been in exile in Algiers, initiated diplomatic relations with numerous states, especially in Africa and Latin America, and within a few years managed to obtain the fundamental recognition of the Organization of unity and an observer post at the United Nations. On the other hand, the 1975 partition agreement was in contrast with the positions of both the International Court of Justice and the United Nations General Assembly, both already pronounced in favor of the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. The first years of conflict saw the Polisario Front prevail over Moroccan and Mauritanian troops thanks to the support of the Sahrawi population and the logistical support of Algeria, up to forcing them, in 1979, to withdraw from the region. The outcome of the war operations prompted Morocco to try to stabilize its presence in Western Sahara with the construction of the ‘Moroccan wall’ (also known as the ‘Berm of Western Sahara’): fortifications of sand and rocks, surrounded by bunkers, moats and minefields, which Rabat organized to hinder the incursions of the Front guerrillas, but also to prevent contacts between the people who remained in Western Sahara and the refugees. The first wall of 1982, which served to protect the so-called ‘useful triangle’, that is the north-western end of the region, where the largest deposits of phosphates and the capital Laâyoune are, was followed by the construction of five other defensive barriers which, reaching a total length of about 2700 km,

The defensive countermeasures adopted by Rabat significantly weakened the Front’s capacity for action and imposed a substantial stalemate in the situation. In 1991, after 15 years of war and about 15,000 casualties, a ceasefire was reached. The agreement sanctioned the end of hostilities and established that the definition of the status of Western Sahara would be entrusted to a referendum, to be held under the supervision of the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council established the Minurso international peacekeeping mission in the same year(United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), with the aim of enforcing the ceasefire and with the task of preparing the referendum, especially with reference to the controversial definition of those entitled to vote. In 2003, the special correspondent UnJames Baker proposed a two-stage plan to unblock the situation: five years of transition, during which the region can experience self-government under Moroccan sovereignty, and a subsequent referendum – which has not yet been held. – for the definitive choice of the independence option or of territorial integration with Morocco. Baker’s proposal was not accepted by Rabat which, although willing to negotiate (restarted in 2007), continues to believe that its sovereignty over Western Sahara cannot be renounced.

Morocco Defense

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