Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC
October 16, 2014
The US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was announced in full in late September, with Morocco the only Maghreb country to have joined thus far. Morocco has committed to providing humanitarian assistance to aid the populations suffering from the current conflict, as well as intelligence sharing to bolster counterterrorism operations against ISIL.
Of course, as Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar noted recently, this isn’t the first instance of Morocco being on the forefront against violent extremism. Indeed, it is only the latest step Morocco has taken to bolster regional and domestic security. And although the current fight remains far from its borders, Morocco nevertheless takes the threat very seriously and has sought to address it through a comprehensive approach.
Moroccan officials detailed this threat – and the steps it is taking to confront it – at a meeting of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee on September 30. At the briefing, “Countering Incitement to Commit Terrorist Acts Motivated by Extremism and Intolerance: The Kingdom of Morocco’s Approach and Experiences of other African States,” Yassine Mansouri, Director General of Morocco’s intelligence agency, the DGED; Nasser Bourita, Secretary-General of Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Ahmed Toufik, Morocco’s Minister of Islamic Affairs, presented an overview of Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts and the key elements of the “Moroccan experience.”
The participation of these three individuals at the briefing highlights that experience: Morocco understands that counterterrorism requires a multifaceted approach that combines hard security measures, equitable and inclusive human development, and religious moderation. Mr. Bourita highlighted this “tripartite” approach as key to security, peace, and stability, adding that it must always be coupled with political reforms
In his remarks, Mr. Toufik explained that the role of government is to identify the radicalizing elements within society and pacify them. He noted that Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, as both political leader and Commander of the Faithful, provides a path on which religion and politics may walk “hand-in-hand without any place for violence or terrorism.”
As for hard security measures, Mr. Mansouri detailed the efforts Moroccan security officials have undertaken to combat domestic terrorism and recruitment, including dismantling numerous terrorist cells, foiling terrorist plots, and cooperating with its neighbors to control borders. As Mr. Mansouri stated, “The efforts of Moroccan security services to fight internal terrorist threats are a significant contribution to the international fight against terrorism and, through the sharing of intelligence, have saved many countries from malevolent acts threatening their security.” Morocco’s growing intelligence network and partnerships with neighboring countries are thus aiding in the fight against terrorism both at home and abroad.
Of course, as Morocco and its neighbors know, this is an enduring threat. Just yesterday Moroccan officials announced that two people accused of belonging to ISIL were sentenced to three years in prison for plans to perpetrate acts of terrorism. Morocco’s comprehensive approach to violent extremism addresses short-term security needs while seeking to undermine the long-term causes of terrorism, hopefully helping to deter the next wave of violence in the region.
It is clear that Morocco is committed to holistically confronting such challenges. What is also clear is that its engagement as a leading US ally and coalition partner is essential.