A Short History of Moroccan Armed Forces

By Aboul-Enein, Youssef H. | Military Review, January/February 2004 | Go to article overview
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A Short History of Moroccan Armed Forces


Aboul-Enein, Youssef H., Military Review


A Short History of Moroccan Armed Forces

God: Creator of all destiny, by His Mercy we draw from, he ordains our choice to right path.

Nation: Land that begets our bounty, from which we sustain ourselves we protect its integrity from and defend it from all enemies.

King: Our commander and guide, he guides our renaissance and development, protector of our people's rights."

-Motto of the Moroccan Armed Forces.1

The Kingdom of Morocco has much to be proud of; for example, it has been a long-time Middle East ally to the United States, being the first country to recognize the United States as a nation in 1777. Moroccan officers also are quick to tell us of King Mohammed Bin Youssaf's Mohammed Vs refusal to surrender Moroccan Jews to the Vichy (proNazi) French Government and certain death in Nazi concentration camps.

Today, Morocco has a moderate government in which the monarch, who can trace his lineage to the Prophet Muhammad, challenges militant ideology and encourages Islamic scholars to dispel the twisted theology that produces mass murder. Morocco, as a guardian of maritime commerce along the Gibraltar Strait and a nation that has recently contributed peacekeepers to Kosovo and Bosnia, has great potential to become a moderating force in the Middle East.

Al-Jaysh Al-Maghribi Abr Al-Tareekh (The Moroccan Army throughout history) by Abdul-Haq Al-Merini offers Arab readers a glimpse of Moroccan military history.2 Al-Merini has written biographies and collected speeches of the late Moroccan King Mohammed V and also King Hassan II, who died in 1999. Al-Merini, who received his doctorate in literature, is a prolific writer of history. The book won Morocco's prize for literature in 1968 and has become a timeless military classic among North African officers in Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and Tunisia.

Al-Merini begins his book, which is enthralling from beginning to end, by discussing the frustrations Roman legions faced while pacifying Moroccan tribesmen. he mentions the importance of Moroccan tribes in the Islamic expansion beginning in A.D. 711 and concludes with Morocco's roles in World War II, Operation Desert Storm, and peacekeeping operations in the Congo, Somalia, and the Balkans. Understanding the Moroccan military will help further the relationship between U.S. and Moroccan Armed Forces, particularly as both nations are committed to battling Islamic militancy and terrorism.

World War Il

The first inkling of Morocco's proU.S. stance came with Mohammed V's proclamation on 7 September 1938: "I wish to confirm with the highest and clearest voice that Morocco's King and his subjects will offer unified resistance and will side with France."3 Despite the famous Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca, which featured a host of Nazi, Allied, and Vichy French spies, the Moroccan position during the war was quite clear; it picked the Allied cause against fascism.4

On 3 September 1939, Moroccan mosques issued in poetic prose, a royal proclamation that reminded its citizens of World War Fs effect on society, emphasizing the need to back France once again against the Germans. What also motivated the Moroccans was a belief that nations under French and British colonialism would be given their independence once victory over Germany was achieved.

German Blitzkrieg 1940. On 3 September 1939, the Moroccans organized a brigade of 2,300 fighters in Meknes. The brigade was part of the 1st Moroccan Division, which included the 1st, 3d, and 7th Moroccan Infantry Regiments. The regiments were sent to France and positioned along the Belgian border under the command of French forces. After marching 130 kilometers in 3 days, the Moroccans witnessed Adolf Hitler's 10 May 1940 blitzkrieg and German forces' engagements on 14 and 15 May. There is no information about how the Moroccans were defeated tactically, but Al-Merini mentions that of the 2,300 Moroccans sent as part of the Belgian Campaign, only 50 returned to Meknes after the liberation of Europe in 1945.

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