Morocco cancels joint military exercises with U.S
Morocco decided Tuesday to cancel its annual military exercises with the United States as a response to U.S.’s draft resolution to expand the mission of MINURSO in the Sahara, said AFP news agency.
Morocco’s decision came “after the Obama administration backed having the U.N. monitor human rights in the disputed territory of Western Sahara”, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because there has not yet been a formal announcement of the cancellation. Morocco’s government spokesman declined to comment.
A Moroccan official, who declined to be identified, also confirmed that the exercise, called “Africa Lion”, was canceled.
Several Moroccan media have reported that Rabat wants to express its anger over the U.S. initiatives to broaden the U.N. mission’s mandate in the Sahara to include human rights monitoring.
“It is an attack on the national sovereignty of Morocco and will have negative consequences on the stability of the whole region, (…) We count on the wisdom of the members of the Security Council to avoid such initiatives”, the Minister of Communication and government spokesman, Mustapha El Khalfi, said Tuesday to a limited number of representatives of the foreign press in Morocco.
The Moroccan government has flatly refused to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission in the Sahara and considered the U.S.’s initiative as unilateral, biased, and prejudicial against the Moroccan sovereignty.
It is worth mentioning that “Africa Lion” exercise had been set to involve 1,400 U.S. servicemen and 900 Moroccan troops, as well as foreign observers from countries like France and Germany. According to “Africom”, U.S. command in the African continent, 20 countries had been invited to participate as abservers in these maneuvers.
It is one of the largest of the 12 to 18 exercises carried out by Africom every year, and features live fire exercises, amphibious operations and low level flight training, according to Eric Elliott, a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command.
U.S. gives a great importance to Morocco-USA joint exercises “because they give us an opportunity to work with African nations. Morocco happens to have one of the more capable military forces in Africa,” Elliott said.
U.S. personnel for Africa Lion had been deploying into Morocco since last week. The troops and equipment were now in the process of being redeployed, Elliott said.