The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, has appointed Farouk Belkhir as chief inspector general of the army, replacing General Abdelfatah Louarak, according to a royal cabinet communiqué.
The reasons for Belkhir's appointment to his new duties lie in his "high professional qualities" and "the selflessness and loyalty he has shown in the exercise of the various military and supervisory responsibilities he has held". In this line, on 13 November last, he headed the "eviction operation" that would have expelled a group of Saharawi independence fighters from Guerguerat, in the southern extremities of Western Sahara, facilitating "the recovery of commercial and transport activities at the border crossing".
In this regard, the Saharawi group reportedly blocked traffic to prevent commercial transactions from taking place on the road. The day after the operation, the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, declared the truce signed between the two parties in 1991 to be broken.
The Moroccan army initially stated that "this operation is non-offensive, without combat intent, and is carried out according to clear rules of engagement, which require avoiding any contact with civilians and not resorting to the use of weapons except in self-defence".
The reasons for this change were not disclosed at the level of the Moroccan army high command. This new appointment coincides with an important political phase in Morocco following the holding of legislative elections and the start of consultations to form a new government, as well as the current regional situation characterised by an increase in terrorist threats in the Sahel.
The General, born in 1950, joined the ranks of the Moroccan army at the Royal Military Academy in Meknes. Appointed to the southern provinces a year after his graduation, he continued to work in the region and in the third office of the Royal Armed Forces in Rabat.
The general's name is associated with the military organisation of the "African Lion" manoeuvres, the largest annual military exercise of the US military command in Africa, in the city of Agadir. In line with the military agreement, the aim of the manoeuvres was to "combat terrorism and take humanitarian measures to resolve the migration crisis, based on its role as an actor of regional stability in the Sahel and the Mediterranean".