In a bid to strengthen relations with Morocco and reassert its presence in North Africa, the United States is planning to build a military-industrial base in the Alawi Kingdom. According to the New York Daily News, US President Joe Biden himself has instructed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to prepare a contingency plan to establish such a base. The US media reports that this project was proposed during a high-level meeting in late December between Biden and Austin in which they discussed Washington's new global military strategy.
The US president, according to the New York Daily News, has urged the defence secretary to press the Pentagon to facilitate the logistical and legal aspects of the country's defence industry-related investments in Morocco.
One of the objectives of the base would be to "strengthen Rabat's leadership in the fight against terrorism, as well as its integration into the international military alliance by developing its military capabilities".
According to US media reports, prior to the meeting with Austin in which he proposed the creation of the base, Biden received a report from CIA Director Williams J. Burns on Russia's expansion into African countries such as Zimbabwe, Sudan, Central African Republic, Algeria and the Sahel nations. On numerous occasions, analysts and journalists have warned of Russia's actions on the continent through the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group.
The US intelligence agency's report highlighted Russia's strong military and political support for the Algerian government and Moscow's alleged intentions to establish a large logistical base to facilitate its operations in the Sahel. The CIA warned that this move "will threaten the interests of Washington and its regional allies", according to the New York Daily News.
Morocco is considered a "key strategic partner" of NATO and the main US ally in North Africa. Khaled Cherkaoui Al-Samouni, director of the Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Rabat, tells The Arab Weekly that Biden's plan is part of the new US international military strategy and "paves the way for laying the foundations of the Moroccan military industry", given the existing cooperation between Washington and Rabat in military matters. Al-Samouni recalls Morocco's "geostrategic location" between Europe and Africa.
He also expressed the hope that this plan 'will lead to strengthening the bilateral partnership between Morocco and the United States, developing local military equipment, encouraging investment and boosting the defence industry'. Washington and Rabat already have strong military relations. Proof of this is the 'African Lion' military manoeuvres held in the Kingdom with the aim of developing the bilateral partnership.
Mohamed Lakrini, professor of international law and international relations, affirms that the military-industrial base in the Kingdom will serve to develop "Morocco's military and security capabilities", as the North African country plays an important role in the fight against terrorism, according to the Arab media. Lakrini recalls anti-terrorist operations carried out by the Moroccan authorities together with other countries such as Spain, France and Germany.
The professor also points out that the establishment of the US base in Morocco would increase Washington's influence in the face of "Russian and Chinese expansion" in the region and on the continent. In this sense, he stresses that Algiers would facilitate the establishment of Russian bases on its territory.
The development and modernisation of the armed forces play an important role for the Kingdom. Last May, Mohammed VI stressed in a speech that the country would "continue to prioritise the plan to equip and improve the Royal Armed Forces, in accordance with programmes that focus on the establishment of military industries and the development of scientific research".
To this end, in recent years Rabat has reached military and security cooperation agreements with several countries and leading companies in the sector, such as the US company Lockheed Martin, with which it agreed to build an industrial building of some 15,000 square metres on the outskirts of the Benslimane air base. This centre will be dedicated to the maintenance and development of Moroccan air force aircraft.
Coordinador América: José Antonio Sierra