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Military developments in Algeria and Morocco likely to lead up to conflict in North Africa

Morocco is deploying significant resources to survey its maritime and land borders. Morocco will mobilize 50,000 troops to improve surveillance systems, Abdellatif Loudiyi, the delegate in charge of defence, says. This move anticipates thesteps by its neighbours and, given the tense situation with several neighbouring countries – especially Algeria, with diplomatic relations broken at the end of August last year.  

Tensions between the two nations exacerbate the scenario of rivalry between Morocco and Algeria. There are deep differences and confrontation between two states over crucial issues such as Western Sahara. 

The Moroccan thesis points to Iran’s entry into the Sahara and the Sahel through the armed group Hezbollah(Russian ally) and its relations with the Polisario Front, under the protection of Algeria. These allegations escalated in the last weeks of October, when the Moroccan representative to the UN, Omar Hilale, claimed in New York that Iran is preparing to supply the Polisario Front with war drones. Morocco is playing its cards hard with the US to show that it is subject to the threat from Iran through the Polisario armed insurgency. It is on Rabat’s agenda to get its head in the US plan to fund Arab countries that might be attacked by Iran.

Recent joint military exercises between Algiers and Moscow in Bechar, near the border with Morocco, are causing concern.

Russia and Algeria are conducting joint military manoeuvres from November 16 to November 28 in the Hammaguir region of Bechar in northwestern Algeria, just over the border with Morocco, meaning that the Russian military is conducting activities on the doorstep of southern Europe at a time of proxy war between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the country presided over by Vladimir Putin sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  So, Russia is likely to roil the North Sahara region to undermine gas supply from Algeria and stimulate the new wave of migrants and refugees. 

Military ties between Algiers and Moscow have been intensifying in recent months with various military exercises between the two nations and with other countries, and keep developing with the latest military manoeuvres in Bechar, which officially take the form of tactical anti-terrorist training, just 50 kilometres from the border with the Moroccan kingdom. Thus, Algeria comes into the picture here as possibly the most destabilising element of Russia’s international concern.

Russia can use its presence in Algeria, a short distance from the gateway to southern Europe, as a threat and a demarcation line between the Western zone of influence and that of the former socialist clanHere it is worth recalling that, in the Cold War era, Algeria was a country aligned with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), as it had a single party system, like the communist countries of the Soviet orbit.  

Morocco seeks to protect its borders by increasing its efforts to maintain security in the Kingdom. They are now mobilizing material and human resources to guard the 3,330 kilometres of land and 3,500 kilometres of maritime borders.

Border surveillance, as well as strengthening operational capabilities to deal with threats, are among the main concerns of the Kingdom’s armed forces (FAR). 
This increased surveillance effort is based on a system of fixed and support points, intervention units, an electronic surveillance system – composed of a network of fixed and mobile radars – as well as audiovisual means and drones. In addition to this deployment, the Royal Air Forces will deploy a series of fixed radars to warn of any incursion into Moroccan airspace.

Also, Rabat is permanently vigilant in the fight against illegal activities in territorial waters by means of maritime surveillance radars and the mobilisation of intervention units along the Moroccan coast. 

This new move by Morocco follows on the heels of the establishment in February of a military zone on the border with Algeria and the establishment of a command in Al Hoceima just a several weeks ago. The aim of the latter is to provide the greatest flexibility and freedom of action necessary to adapt to the ’emergency conditions’ in the region stretching from east of Al Hoceima to north of Moulay Bousselham. Hassane Erreda, a FAR brigadier general, will be in charge of the installation in Al Hoceima, where he has already established the headquarters of the first infantry battalion.