WASHINGTON: The United States and Morocco are boosting counterterrorism cooperation to train intelligence workers as North Africa fights threats from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Under the agreement signed following the U.S.-Africa Summit this week, Washington and Rabat will begin joint training sessions in September, the U.S. State Department said.
The U.S.-Morocco Framework for Cooperation aims to develop Moroccan training experts, as well as jointly train civilian security and counterterrorism forces across allies in the Maghreb and Sahel regions.
It hopes to “develop mutual expertise in the areas of crisis management, border security and terrorism investigations to strengthen regional counterterrorism capabilities and to deny space to terrorists and terrorist networks,” the State Department said.
King Mohammed VI did not participate on Morocco’s behalf in the summit that took place in Washington, but he was hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House in November.
Since 2004, Morocco has been among Washington’s major non-NATO allies, a privileged status that allows such measures as the lifting of restrictions on arms sales.
Rabat is considered an important U.S. ally in combating radical extremist ideology, which has enjoyed a revival elsewhere in North Africa since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that swept away decades-old dictatorships.
Morocco’s agreement to train imams from nearby countries afflicted by militant violence, such as Libya, Mali and Tunisia, forms part of its strategy of promoting a more tolerant version of Islam.
In addition to the Moroccan king, new Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi also was a no-show at the U.S. summit of African leaders.