Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 1295 / 251,287


Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin


Browse by tag


Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious


If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #08RABAT727.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08RABAT727 2008-08-04 16:04 2010-12-02 21:09 SECRET Embassy Rabat

DE RUEHRB #0727/01 2171613
P 041613Z AUG 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L RABAT 000727

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/24/2028 
Classified By: Classified by Ambassador Thomas T. Riley for reasons 1.4 
 (a) and (b). 
1.  (C) Summary:  The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces (FAR) are 
modernizing but remain weighed down by long-standing 
problems.  King Mohammed VI, who in 1999 inherited a military 
in need of professionalization, has implemented some needed 
reforms, but much remains to be done.  Civilian control, if 
ascribed to the person of the King, is complete, but there is 
no real Defense Ministry.  Outside the FAR, there is only a 
small administration.  The military remains plagued by 
corruption, an inefficient bureaucracy, low levels of 
education in the ranks, periodic threats of radicalization of 
some of its soldiers, political marginalization, and the 
deployment of most of its forces in the Western Sahara. 
There have been some indications of pending changes in the 
leadership.  In general, the U.S. and Morocco share a robust 
military relationship with prospects for even closer ties in 
the future.  The health of the relationship is evident by 
increased U.S.-Moroccan military training exercises and 
Morocco's purchase of sophisticated weapons from the U.S. to 
include 24 F-16s this year.  We anticipate that the 
U.S.-Moroccan military relationship will continue to flourish 
but Morocco's ability to absorb its new high-end military 
purchases and restrictions on high quality Moroccan 
information sharing with our attaches represent two 
challenges ahead.  This mission-coordinated report draws 
heavily on valuable reporting and analysis from the embassy's 
military components, the Defense Attache Office and the 
Office of Security Cooperation.  End Summary. 
All the King's Men 
2.  (C) As Commander-in-Chief of the Moroccan Royal Armed 
Forces and Minister of Defense, King Mohammed VI maintains a 
highly centralized role over the military.  No troop 
movements, exercises, or even travel of officers domestically 
or abroad happens without the King,s approval.  As a result 
of the 1971 and 1972 coup attempts by the Moroccan Army and 
Air Force respectively, the Palace increased control over the 
military, marginalized it from policy making, and restricted 
its interaction with foreign military interlocutors and the 
press.  The Alaouite dynasty depends upon, among other 
things, a strong military, the leadership of which, however, 
must remain sufficiently docile so as not to arouse 
suspicions of disloyalty.  The only civilian structure 
responsible for the FAR is not a Defense Ministry but rather 
an entity under the Prime Minister responsible for the 
Administration of the National Defense.  It is headed by 
Minister-delegate Abderrahmane Sbai, whose role is 
essentially restricted to that of comptroller.  As far as we 
can tell, political-military policy on issues such as 
peacekeeping appears centered in the Foreign Ministry.  All 
other major defense matters are decided in the Palace. 
3.  (C) Over the past decade, Morocco has transitioned from a 
conscript to an all-volunteer military force of approximately 
218,000 soldiers.  Of the three services, the Army is 
dominant with approximately 175,000 personnel.  There are 
approximately 13,000 personnel in the Air Force and 7,800 in 
the Navy.  Though nominally subordinate within the military 
structure but answering directly to the King, the 
Gendarmerie, which consists of approximately 22,000 
personnel, conducts paramilitary, royal guard, and internal 
and border policing missions.  Though a few legacy conscripts 
remain in the military, professional reforms have made 
voluntary military service an attractive career option for 
Moroccans with opportunities for a steady income and some 
upward mobility.  The average military salary for enlisted 
soldiers is approximately 2,000 dirhams (USD 270) per month. 
An officer's starting salary is approximately 6,000 dirhams 
(USD 850) per month.  With benefits, such as free housing, 
these are reasonably competitive in the Moroccan context. 
4.  (C) The top military commanders include Military 
Inspector General and Army Commander, Lieutenant General (Lt 
Gen) Abdelaziz Benanni; Operations Chief Lt Gen Boughaid 
Arroub; and Gendarmerie Commander Lt Gen Housni Benslimane. 
Benanni, who has become mired in suspicion of corruption, 
will reportedly be retired soon.  Arroub, who came out of 
recent retirement, is tipped by some to succeed Benanni. 
Arroub, historically pro-French, appears to have become 
increasingly pro-U.S. in the last 5 years.  Another rising 
star in the FAR is General Mohamed Larbi Tamdi, who is 
responsible for army logistics and force sustainment.  There 
is some military staff in the Palace, likely influent, about 
which little is known. 
5.  (C) King Hassan II and his son, King Mohammed VI, have 
maintained the Gendarmerie as a force relatively independent 
from the FAR since 1972, in part as a check against a 
military coup.  While it most visibly serves as a State 
Police/Highway Patrol, it has a wide range of units.  Its 
commander, Lt Gen Benslimane, likely reports in some way 
directly to the King.  He also leads the Moroccan National 
Soccer League, making him a popular figure inside and out of 
military circles.  While there is no direct proof of 
Benslimane being involved in corrupt activity, low ranking 
Gendarmerie assigned to highway patrols are expected to pay 
approximately 4,000 dirhams (USD 540) to their immediate 
supervisors with extralegal earnings from motorists above 
which they can keep for themselves, according to one credible 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
Military Operations Dominated by Western Sahara 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
6.  (C) The FAR is composed of over 200,000 soldiers and 
outclasses most militaries in Africa but has significant room 
for improvement.  Along with concerns regarding aging 
equipment and an overtaxed force, the FAR is plagued by 
institutional corruption, leadership that will not step 
aside, and low morale among mid-level officers.  The FAR is 
preoccupied with operations in the Western Sahara region with 
between 50 and 70 percent of its total strength deployed 
there at any one time.  The force in Western Sahara -- a 
landmass roughly two thirds the size of California -- is 
considered to be stretched thin with a reported estimated 
operational readiness rate of just 40 percent.  Morocco does 
not consider the POLISARIO -- the ethnically Sahrawi 
resistance based in Tindouf, Algeria, seeking to make the 
Western Sahara an independent state -- to be a conventional 
military threat.  However, the FAR remains vigilant in 
guarding against a renewed POLISARIO insurgency effort. 
Morocco built a berm or sand wall along the eastern and 
southern borders of the Sahara in the 1980s, which 
effectively eliminated the POLISARIO's ability to launch hit 
and run raids, leading to the 1981 cease-fire, which has been 
fully respected.  The POLISARIO continues to maintain a 
small, lightly armed presence at a few desert crossroads in 
the small remaining part of Western Sahara outside the berm. 
Despite occasional expressions of concern, the GOM almost 
certainly is fully conscious that the POLISARIO poses no 
current threat that could not be effectively countered.  The 
POLISARIO has generally refrained from classic terrorist 
bombings, etc.  Although the specter is sometimes raised, 
there is no indication of any Salafist/Al Qaeda activity 
among the indigenous Sahrawi population. 
7.  (C) While the border between Morocco and Algeria is 
closed, and relations remain cool, we do not believe that 
Algeria poses an imminent conventional military threat to 
Morocco.  Nonetheless, the FAR has contingency plans and 
"wargames" in training exercises for a possible Algerian 
attack, but the FAR does not have troops deployed along the 
border.  Instead, the FAR remains stationed in garrisons, 
hundreds of kilometers away from the border, from which they 
could deploy in the unlikely event of an Algerian incursion 
into Morocco.  Any confrontation between the two countries 
would likely take place through the proxy of the POLISARIO, 
which Algeria has supported materially in the past and could 
do so again if hostilities between Morocco and the POLISARIO 
8.  (C) Motivated to win over other countries to its claims 
to Western Sahara, Morocco is active in United Nations (UN), 
engages in peacekeeping activities, and occasionally sends 
troops to assist friendly countries.  Morocco is an 
experienced contributor to UN peacekeeping efforts, deploying 
to countries like Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Haiti and 
Somalia.  It currently has over 1,500 peacekeepers deployed 
to Cote d,Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo 
(DRC).  Morocco also supports a military hospital in Kosovo 
under NATO command.  Morocco has sent medical personnel to 
Niger to assist with famine relief and recently re-deployed 
military forces to Senegal for an annual five-month &cloud 
seeding8 operation for drought relief.  Peacekeeping 
contributions in recent years have been tarnished by 
allegations of sexual wrongdoing in the DRC and Cote 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
Corruption Remains the Single Greatest Challenge 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
9.  (C) Corruption is prevalent at all levels of Moroccan 
society and the military is also plagued by it, particularly 
at the highest levels.  This may partly reflect a grand 
bargain struck by King Hassan II following at least two 
nearly successful coups in the 1970's:  remain loyal, and you 
can profit.  (Those whose loyalty was in question were 
subject to sometimes decades of harsh imprisonment.) 
Credible reports indicate that Lt Gen Benanni is using his 
position as the Commander of the Southern Sector to skim 
money from military contracts and influence business 
decisions.  A widely believed rumor has it that he owns large 
parts of the fisheries in Western Sahara.  Benanni, like many 
senior military officers, has a lavish family home that was 
likely built with money gleaned from bribes.  Leadership 
positions in regional sectors are a significant source of 
extralegal income for military leaders.  There are even 
reports of students at Morocco's military academy paying 
money to increase their class standings in order to obtain 
positions in lucrative military postings.  Command in the 
southern sector, i.e., Western Sahara, given the predominance 
of military activity there, is considered to be the most 
lucrative of the sectors in this regard.  Because command in 
the southern sector is also considered critical to high level 
advancement in the FAR, positions there are highly sought 
after.  Consequently, positions in this sector are often 
jealously "guarded" by a number of influential families in 
the military.  The GOM seems to be looking for ways to stop 
corruption, especially among the formative military ranks of 
Colonel and below, but not much is being done to stop the 
corruption in the general officer ranks. 
Retiring High Level Officers Also a Problem 
10.  (C) Senior officers refusing to retire to allow younger 
officers to move up the ranks has become a significant 
problem for the FAR.  Officers nearing the mandatory 
retirement age do not want to retire since this would mean 
relinquishing bribes, money-skimming, and some related 
sources of income.  Even for those officers not &on the 
take,8 giving up government positions and paychecks is 
economically difficult for a sustained retirement.  This 
"gerontocracy" problem, coupled with the King's notorious 
micro-management of the military has had a negative impact on 
the morale of mid-level military leaders. 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
Radicalization:  Under Control But Lingering Menace 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
11.  (C) Though now viewed as a minor problem, reporting 
suggests that small numbers of FAR soldiers remains 
susceptible to Islamic radicalization.  The GOM first 
encountered this problem following the 2003 Casablanca 
bombings when investigators identified military members as 
co-conspirators.  Following the bombings, the FAR undertook 
steps to identify extremists and implement preventative 
measures, such as closing prayer halls on military bases, to 
address the problem.  Subsequently, Morocco,s internal 
security services have identified and apprehended several 
military and gendarmerie personnel in other terrorist cells, 
some of whom had stolen weapons from their bases for 
terrorism.  Acknowledging this threat in a speech to the 
armed forces in May 2008, the King stated his desire to 
"immunize" the armed forces from the threat of radicalization 
and to promote the values of tolerance and moderation in the 
ranks.  During this same time frame the military forced 30 
officers to retire early, allegedly because they were deemed 
potentially radical and hostile to the Government. 
Subsequently, the FAR removed all mosques from army bases and 
deployed military counterintelligence, i.e., 5th Bureau, 
undercover officers to monitor local "off-post" mosques for 
potentially radical activities.  These officers refer cases 
to the Gendarmerie if criminal charges can be pursued. 
Winds of Change 
12.  (C) Since the 1970's the military itself has been 
perceived as the greatest threat to the throne and internal 
security in Morocco, not surprising given Morocco's own 
history and the broader context of the coup-ridden Middle 
East and Africa.  Of late, however, there is a general 
perception that the relationship between the Palace and the 
FAR is beginning to change to one of greater trust.  The 
King's growing confidence is partly signaled by a recent 
significant increase in military spending, particularly for 
modern hardware, although this is primarily a function of the 
GOM's perceived threat from Algeria and the fact that it is 
cost prohibitive at a certain point to maintain older 
military equipment.  The GOM increased the military's 
operating budget to more than USD 2 billion in 2007, 
significantly more than in previous years.  Likewise, the FAR 
is undergoing a significant modernization process, paying 
over USD 2 billion for 24 F-16 aircraft and over USD 300 
million for T-6 training aircraft from the U.S.  The GOM has 
commercially financed these transactions, thus far, but the 
upfront payments have come from the treasury, which has also 
committed to cover monthly payments.  The King recently 
allowed armed military flights north of Ben Guerir (located 
approximately 200 kilometers south of Rabat), an act not 
permitted in the past due to the King,s desire to keep the 
military far away from the Palace in Rabat.  The GOM is also 
looking to make significant purchases of M-1 Abrams battle 
tanks in the future. 
U.S.-Moroccan Military Relations 
   Strong but Could Be Better 
13.  (C) In general, the U.S. and Morocco share a robust 
military relationship with prospects for even closer ties in 
the future.  The health of the relationship is evidenced by 
increased U.S.-Moroccan military training exercises and the 
aforementioned military sales.  Morocco has also increased 
its activities under a partnership arrangement with the Utah 
National Guard, which regularly deploys to Morocco to conduct 
joint training and humanitarian relief operations.  We have 
submitted draft proposed language for the Moroccans to 
consider for an Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement 
(ACSA) and a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and have 
received comments on the ACSA draft from the GOM.  In the 
future, the Embassy hopes to see improvements in the FAR's 
information sharing and accessibility to military units and 
facilities with our Defense Attache Office.  Although the FAR 
regularly dialogues with our attaches, quality information is 
lacking.  The FAR also does not recognize the Embassy Attache 
circle, an organization of Military Attaches from various 
countries residing in Morocco who elect a president to 
discuss issues of collective concern with the FAR.  It is 
apparent that the Palace continues to tightly control the 
FAR's interactions U.S. and other foreign governments. 
AFRICOM Viewed with Caution 
14.  (C) Previous interactions with GOM officials indicate 
that military leaders are opposed to AFRICOM basing a 
headquarters element in Morocco.  However, Morocco has 
offered to send a military liaison officer to the AFRICOM 
headquarters in Germany and has offered to assist U.S.-led 
efforts engaging with African countries.  Morocco has also 
approached AFRICOM representatives to solicit AFRICOM support 
in providing chemicals needed for their cloud-seeding 
operations in Senegal and providing logistics to assist with 
a proposed locust control program. 
15.  (C) The Mission is optimistic that the U.S.-Moroccan 
military relationship will continue to improve, but there are 
potential speed bumps in future.  We anticipate that 
cooperative joint training exercises will continue to occur 
at a robust pace, although the vast majority of this activity 
will likely take place in Morocco because of continued 
restrictions on the travel of FAR personnel.  While we 
anticipate that the Palace will continue to modernize the 
military, with the notable possible acquisition of M-1 Abrams 
tanks, we are increasingly concerned that Morocco, not used 
to the high operating costs of these high end items (and 
other budgetary pressures) may make it increasingly difficult 
for the Moroccans to make payments on purchases.  If payments 
become a problem for the GOM, this could sour relations 
temporarily.  While we believe that there are some signs of 
the King's increased confidence in the FAR, we believe that 
the monarchy still calculates that the military represents 
the biggest potential threat to the crown.  FAR officers 
will, therefore, continue to be distanced from policy making 
input and restricted from engaging in detailed discussions 
about Moroccan military strength and intentions with foreign 
military officers, including our attaches. 
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;