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Moroccan army protecting the Royal Institutions and the desert...and Algerian spenders

May 30, 2014 at 4:01 pm

A new study published including Moroccan lecturer Said Haddad confirmed that

Military institutions in the Maghreb are not similar and each has its own independent relationship with the politics of its country, a new study published by the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) in France said.

According to the study, which analysed the evolution of the armies of the Maghreb region in the stage following the Arab revolutions, said the Moroccan army remains the most professional in the region which consist of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania, and that its agenda is based on the protection of the Royal Institution and the Sahara.

Tunisia, Libya and Algeria

The study touched upon the military in both Libya and Tunisia after the political changes brought about by the Arab Spring in these two countries, and reported that the institutions of the army after the fall of their regimes were also engulfed in the status of political instability, particularly in Libya, along with the big challenges enforced by the new situation prepared to face any confronting risks.

The international report halted at the status of the military establishment in Algeria, considering “the national army is at the side of the presidency and the directorate of intelligence and security, and is the most important organ of the main political system, explaining the marginalisation of the National Liberation Front.”

The same source pointed out that “the core of the army within the political system in Algeria is still gnawing at the presidency, because of the transformations of the security situation inside the country, as well as emerging security challenges, on the southern border of Algeria.”

The study listed figures and data belonging to the Algerian army, which includes 147,000 soldiers, including 80,000 recruits, and 150,000 military reserves, noting that the ground forces remain the most important component in terms of number, with 127,000 soldiers on the ground compared to 14,000 military air forces, and 6,000 naval troops.

Army protecting the Royal institution and the desert

The study stressed what it called the “professionalism of the Moroccan army” since the abolition of the obligatory military service in 2006, highlighting that “the Royal Institution is located in the heart of the military hierarchy and organisational structure of the military establishment.”

The report pointed out that “the king acts as a central and pivotal role in determining the national defence policy. Practically speaking, he is the defence minister despite the presence of a Minister Delegate in charge of the conduct of the affairs of National Defence. He also serves as the chief of staff of the armies of Morocco with all their weapons.”

The Moroccan academic report said that the openness of the political system, which began with the arrival of King Mohammed VI to power in 1999, did not lead to any change in the relationship between the King and the military establishment since the constitution stipulates that the king is the supreme commander of the Royal Armed Forces and has the right to appoint military positions.”

According to the study, the number of Moroccan military forces is 198,000 men, divided between 175,000 military ground forces, more than 7,800 naval forces, 13,000 military air forces, and thousands of soldiers, Royal Guards and reserve forces.

The report predicted that in the case of settling the Sahara conflict, Morocco will continue its interest in the regional implications of the Libyan crisis and its expansion in the regional coastal desert, as this would strengthen the position of the Moroccan army in the service of the royal institution and to ensure the stability of the country.

Functions of the Moroccan Army

The international expert, who specialises in NATO affairs and defence and security policies in the Arab world, Dr Brahim Saidy, told Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed: “The Moroccan Army contains traditional functions in maintaining the country’s institutions, mainly the Royal Institution and the maintenance of the territorial integrity.”

Saidy, a professor at the University of Qatar, said: “There are also other functions of the Moroccan army, such as facing new security threats posed by the deteriorating situation in the Sahel region south of the Sahara, where it is required to be ready to defend the country in time of war and peace alike.”

He noted that “Morocco lives in an unstable region of security, making it vulnerable at any moment to risks and threats,” explaining that this situation “does not allow the Moroccan army to be late in improving the quality of its military hardware, especially in light of its disputes with Algeria and Spain.”

According to Saidy, that “part of the Moroccan army is deployed in the desert, where it has bases in the eastern and northern regions of the country, given that the Kingdom has not yet completed its territorial integrity given the occupation by Spain of Ceuta and Melilla, despite the fact that Morocco does not look to Spain as a military threat.”

A frenzied race

There has been a frantic race for years between Morocco and Algeria regarding military armaments and expenses to Morocco on military equipment acquired by the arms deals in 2013 amounted to $4 billion.

According to an earlier report Morocco assumed a ranking of 46 among the 77 countries included in the last international classification of arms. Algeria was ranked in the top 20 with a total spend of $10 billion.

The institution expected Morocco’s budget for the acquisition of military equipment, during the current year will make it more advanced in the rankings, given the determination of the Kingdom to enter many deals for acquiring sophisticated weapons.

In this context, a report released by the Institute of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute a few weeks ago reported that Algeria topped the African continent in arms imports, which rose by 36 per cent in the last five years. Morocco followed by 22 per cent.

This is a translation of an article published by Al Araby on May 30, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.