Friday, May 1, 2009

U.S. Praises Morocco's 'Comprehensive Counterterrorism Approach' and 'International Cooperation' to Combat Rising al-Qaeda Threat in Sahara

/PRNewswire / -- The following is being released by the Moroccan American Center for Policy:

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department praised the Kingdom of Morocco's "comprehensive counterterrorism approach" as it works with the U.S. and its regional and international partners to combat the growing transnational threat from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other terrorist groups.

"The Government of Morocco, and frequently the King himself, regularly and strongly condemned terrorist acts, wherever they occurred," said the annual report to Congress submitted by the State Dept.'s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. "The Moroccan government pursued a comprehensive counterterrorism approach that, building on popular rejection of terrorism, emphasizes neutralizing existing terrorist cells through traditional law enforcement and preemptive security measures, and prevented terrorist recruitment through comprehensive counter-radicalization policies."

The report detailed the success Morocco has seen from its multi-faceted strategy and social reforms to combat terrorism, which goes far beyond "traditional security measures." Specifically, the report highlighted Morocco's $1.2 billion National Human Development Initiative "aimed at ameliorating the socio-economic factors that terrorists exploit" as well as the official sanction of mourchidates, or female spiritual guides, whose role is to promote moderation and religious tolerance in mosques across the Kingdom and in Moroccan immigrant communities abroad.

The report also stressed that a key to Morocco's counterterrorism efforts has been "its emphasis on international cooperation" which has helped Moroccan authorities "disrupt plots to attack Moroccan, U.S. and other Western-affiliated targets, and aggressively investigat[e] numerous individuals associated with international terrorist groups."

"For more than 220 years, Morocco and the United States have continuously worked together to combat security threats to both countries - from piracy on the high seas in the late 1700's to today's increasing terrorist challenge in the Sahara and elsewhere," said Robert M. Holley, executive director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy. "The U.S. and Morocco must work even more closely with its international partners on these critical issues to protect and advance the lives of millions in North Africa, as well as the broader international community."

Yesterday's State Department report underscores many of the same concerns raised in recent weeks by 233 Members of Congress in a letter to President Barack Obama, which states that "[v]ital U.S. interests in North Africa are increasingly challenged by growing regional instability." The Members - representing a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives as well as the highest ranking members of the Democratic and Republican leadership - called on President Obama to strengthen U.S. support for Morocco's compromise autonomy proposal to peacefully resolve the Western Sahara conflict, which they consider to be the "single greatest obstacle impeding the security cooperation necessary to combat this transnational threat."

In March, a special report, "Why the Maghreb Matters," released by the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and the Conflict Management Program at Johns Hopkins University, presented the recommendations of a distinguished panel including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Ret. General Wesley Clark and former Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat. The panel noted the 400% spike in terrorist attacks in the region since 9/11 and advocated increased U.S. engagement with Morocco and other North Africa nations to protect American security interests and to thwart a growing peril from al-Qaeda terrorists in the Sahara.

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