Notes Morocco-Algeria Cooperation Threatened by Western Sahara Conflict
Washington, DC, June 23, 2015 (MACP) — In 2014, Morocco’s “comprehensive counterterrorism strategy that includes vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation, and counter-radicalization policies” “effectively mitigated the risk of terrorism,” according to the US Department of State’s recent Country Reports on Terrorism.
Released on Friday by the Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, the report highlighted Morocco’s proactive role in 2014 “to both stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and to counter ISIL propaganda,” noting Moroccan legislation that would “criminalize support to terrorist groups” as well Morocco’s co-chairing of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group.
On the issue of violent extremism, the report noted that Morocco’s “comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism (CVE)… prioritizes economic and human development goals in addition to tight control of the religious sphere and messaging. Morocco has accelerated its rollout of education and employment initiatives for youth – the population identified as most vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment – and has expanded the legal rights and political and social empowerment of women. To counter what the government perceives as the dangerous importation of violent Islamist extremist ideologies, Morocco has developed a national strategy to affirm and further institutionalize Morocco’s widespread adherence to the Maliki-Ashari school of Sunni Islam,” focusing on “upgrading mosques, promoting the teaching of relatively moderate Islam, and strengthening the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (MEIA).”
The report also made clear the broad and deep extent to which Moroccan security forces cooperate with their US counterparts. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program provided Moroccan forces “with training in cyber forensics, crime scene forensics, and executive leadership”; “Morocco participated in Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and Department of Justice programs to improve technical investigative training for police and prosecutors”; “DGSN, Moroccan Customs, and the Royal Gendarmerie were active partners and participants in DHS-sponsored training events on border security, financial investigation, and counter-proliferation topics”; and Moroccan “government officials participated in several US Federal Bureau of Investigation-led courses to improve capacity in intelligence analysis, facial recognition, and leadership and management.” In the area of border security, the report praised Morocco’s airport authorities for their “excellent capabilities in detecting fraudulent documents,” and noted that “government authorities worked directly with US Customs and Border Protection’s Regional Carrier Liaison Group and the DHS Homeland Security Investigations Attaché office at the US Consulate in Casablanca to address watchlisted or mala fide travelers.”
The report did, however, note that in 2014 “political disagreement over the status of Western Sahara remained an impediment to bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation in 2014.”
“The State Department report makes clear that Morocco’s extensive cooperation with the US and its own counterterrorism and counterextremism efforts have been highly effective,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Ed Gabriel. “Now it’s time to resolve the Western Sahara conflict so there can be fuller and even more airtight cooperation in the Middle East/North Africa to address the pressing issues affecting the region.”
Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049
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