The US has signed a 10-year military accord with the North African Kingdom of Morocco in a bid to boost cooperation among their armed forces and strengthen military readiness of the despotic Arab state.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper inked the agreement Friday during a two-day visit to Morocco, his last stop on his tour of three North African countries that began last week in Tunisia -- where he signed another military deal – and Algeria, according to an AP report.
The military deal “serves as a road map for defense cooperation and aims to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries and support shared security goals,” said a statement issued by Morocco’s Foreign Ministry.
The agreement centers on "consolidating common security objectives, especially improving the degree of military readiness,” added a separate statement released by the General Command of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.
Upon his Friday arrival to Morocco – Washington’s major non-NATO ally in the region -- Esper met with the country’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, the deputy minister for national defense, Abdeltif Loudiyi, and the Inspector General of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces, Gen. Abdelfettah Louarak.
However, full details of his plans during the visit were not immediately disclosed. The Pentagon has not released details about Esper's discussions in Tunisia and Algeria either.
The two officials expressed their “satisfaction with the durability, distinction, continuity and dynamism of the bilateral cooperation,” the statement from the General Command further noted.
This is while the US remains the largest supplier of weapons to Morocco’s authoritarian regime, which hosts the annual US-led war games called “African Lion" — canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Esper’s visit to Algeria marked the first time a US military chief met with the country’s leaders since 2006. He held talks with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and the nation’s Army Chief Gen. Saïd Chengriha.
While no deals were known to be signed with Algeria, the US defense secretary reportedly discussed expanding security cooperation and security issues in the restive Sahel region just south of Algeria, where the American military has repeatedly raised concerns about persisting anti-US militancy.
Washington claims Algeria is its major ally in what it often proclaims as its “war on terror.”