Morocco reinforces its status as a preferred partner for the United States. The Alawi Kingdom has been considered by Washington as a close regional ally for decades, an idyll that dates back to the mid-20th century. Since then, the two countries have shared a deep security and defence partnership, a cooperation that has been strengthened since Morocco's participation in the historic Abraham Accords.
Alignment with Washington has enabled the Alawi Kingdom to sign a battery of arms and military contracts with major US contractors. The latest, authorised by the State Department in November 2019, committed Boing to send a batch of 24 AH64E Apache helicopters and related equipment to the Moroccan armed forces for an estimated value of $4 billion, about Dh14.7 million.
This is the first time the Moroccan army has received such helicopters, which were manufactured on US soil. Before the first delivery, scheduled for 2024, Moroccan armed forces personnel will have to be trained in their use. The combat aircraft are equipped with high technology that allows them to launch attacks against all types of targets at any time of the day.
Morocco last week sent an expedition of its best pilots to the United States to be trained by the US Air Force. The Moroccan soldiers are training at Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah, where they are undergoing intensive simulation sessions and field practice.
The Alawi Kingdom thus becomes the 17th country to acquire this military helicopter. States such as Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have this type of weaponry. All of them partners of Washington, a fact that exemplifies the confidence granted to Rabat by its US ally, while allowing Morocco to fulfil its arms modernisation plans.
This agreement is not the first to be approved by the State Department. A few months earlier, the North African country had acquired 25 Lockheed Martin-built F-16 fighter jets.
The diplomatic normalisation between Israel and Morocco, achieved in August 2020 in the framework of the Abraham Accords, formalised the contacts that had been maintained for decades 'in pectore'. These relaxed relations contrasted with the widespread climate of discord in the rest of the Arab world. With the formal rapprochement, the Alawi kingdom managed to raise sympathy in the corridors of Washington and, with it, to move closer to its roadmap of military modernisation, especially of the air force.
So much so that former President Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, ignoring the rulings issued by the United Nations on the issue. This action legitimised Rabat's position on the area in dispute with the Polisario Front, with whom it has been engaged in a low-intensity war for months. A conflict in which Morocco not only maintains, but extends its superiority.
Aerial practices are not the only axis of military collaboration, just a footnote. Just this week, several Utah National Guard units are in Morocco, where over the next four weeks they will conduct a series of training programmes "on explosive ordnance protection, including mine clearance and ammunition storage and transport," the US Embassy in Rabat tweeted.
The jewel in the crown is the so-called 'African Lion'. The largest military agreement linking Morocco and the US along with 10 other partners. In fact, it is the largest annual joint military exercise on the continent and in June brought together more than 7,000 troops deployed over the North African country.
At the geopolitical level, this union constitutes a counterweight to the growing partnership between Russia and Algeria. Algeria supports the Polisario Front with troops, weapons and funds in its territorial dispute with Morocco, although the latter has the upper hand. At the same time, Washington is strengthening its relationship with a reliable ally in an enclave marked by volatility. With one eye on the Maghreb and the other on the Sahel, a region that feeds its strong ties in the crusade against terrorism.