Thursday, January 20

US examines whether Morocco can be a base for space shuttles

The tests were performed as part of the preparation of the joint US-Morocco African Lion 21 maneuvers, which begin this Monday, They will take place on Moroccan soil until June 18, and in which the Pentagon examines Morocco’s capabilities as a strategic base for Africa.

In these military exercises, the largest carried out on the African continent, Spain declined its participation last November, according to sources from the Defense Staff due to the pandemic, for economic reasons and because part of the troops that it would be appropriate to send are committed to international missions. In the maneuvers, which employ 7,000 soldiers, other European countries – the Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom – do participate in addition to special troops from Canada, Tunisia and Senegal.

The evaluation of the Moroccan bases that are now being tested was carried out – according to the AFRICOM, Pentagon command for Africa – by experts in support of the air deployment, nicknamed “Devil Riders”, of the 621 Contingency Response Wing and of the 821 Contingency Response Support Squadron of the United States Army, part of the Air Mobilty Command of AFRICOM, the United States’ strategic command for Africa.

The experts traveled to five bases, of which Three names have transcended: Tan Tan, Iznegane and Ben Guerir. Pentagon engineers took soil samples from the runways, evaluated their resistance, accesses, obstacles, and the development of services and infrastructure around the bases.

Since the inauguration of the new American president, Joe Biden, on January 20, the Pentagon is conducting a review of the deployment of its troops and assets throughout the planet, which is to end next July, and which includes the search for a location for an air base near the African Sahel, on which the new contractors were alerted of the support to the Spanish base of Morón (Seville).

Sahara slopes

Military members of elite Spanish bodies did take part in the last edition of the African Lion maneuvers, in 2019. The 2020 edition, which was also to have Spanish participation, was suspended due to the pandemic. This year’s maneuvers coincide in time with a lull in the diplomatic crisis of Morocco with Spain opened by the position of this country against the Moroccan appropriation of Western Sahara and by the wave of 10,000 migrants that the southern neighbor allowed to launch on Ceuta on May 17 in response.

American armor on the way to the African Lion maneuvers. US ARMY

The temperature of this friction between the two countries on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar remains stable, although with few bridges, since the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, left his hospital stay due to covid in Spain to finish his recovery in a Algiers clinic.

Minister Ábalos warned on June 1: “We have responsibilities over the air and maritime space of the Sahara.”


The relationship between Spain and Morocco has gone through delicate moments since the previous North American president, Donald Trump, recognized sovereignty of Morocco over the territory of Western Sahara. Against what the Moroccan prime minister was stating on social networks, Sadedin El Otmani, the Pentagon denied to EL PERIÓDICO that these maneuvers are going to deploy soldiers in the territory of the former Spanish colony. In the south of that territory still to be decolonized, the Polisario Front and the Royal Armed Forces of Morocco have held sporadic clashes with artillery since, on November 13, the fire that lasted 30 years broke something.

Air traffic controllers dependent on the Ministry of Development will have the possibility to verify this. They already attended on the front line, and with surprise because they had not been notified, to some controversial joint naval exercises by the US and Morocco in waters very close to the Canary Islands.

Last day 1, with the Morocco-Spain crisis at a point of high temperature, the Minister of Transport and number two of the PSOE, José Luis Ábalos, verbalized one of the warnings of the Government of Spain to Morocco. It was on TVE, in the prime time of Canal 24 Horas: “We have responsibilities over the air and maritime space of the Sahara,” he said, adding that Spain, who is responsible for “that control and surveillance,” performs them “with the media. technological that we can have ”.

Gestures to Algeria

The African Lion maneuvers have planned their development in the parallel of Ouarzazate, central strip of Morocco and strategic axis from that country. Opposite is the area of ​​Bechar, an Algerian town near the border with Morocco around which the Algerian Army developed extensive exercises in the week of May 27, with the assistance of the chief of the Armed Forces, Said Chengriha, principal support of the current Algerian president, Abdelmadine Tebune, and the Saharawi leader Ghali.

The Algerian exercises, which included the use of missiles against cars and other rockets with 300 kilometers of action radius, they trained their soldiers in a scenario of alleged attack to a target in the desert.

Algerian army missile exercise on May 26, 2021, broadcast on Algerian state television. TÉLEVISION ARGÉLIENE

The Algerian army maneuvers were broadcasted with significant media coverage by the official channel Television Algérienne, trying to show in numerous sequences the participation of Russian-made missile launchers and Sukhoi fighters.

Bechar and Tinduf, the site of the saharui resistance camps They are linked by 807 kilometers of the Algerian highway N50, which runs parallel to the border line with Morocco, and around a sector from which the soldiers participating in the exercise were deployed as part of their program.

Three days before, Moroccan and French media spread Moroccan plans to carry out in turn soon around Ouarzazate joint maneuvers of France and Morocco, the Authorise 2021, with the participation of attack helicopters. Three dozen Apache helicopters suitable for combat over the desert are part of the purchase of weapons by the Kingdom of Morocco from its new main supplier: the United States.

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