The visit to Morocco is part of Mark Esper’s Maghreb tour, which includes Tunisia and Algeria.
Rabat – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is expected to visit Morocco on Friday to discuss counterterrorism cooperation.
The Pentagon chief is set to arrive in Morocco on Friday after concluding trips to Tunisia and Algeria.
AFP reported that the Maghreb tour will mark Esper’s first visit to Africa.
The agency said the defense secretary will open his tour with a visit to Tunisia on Wednesday to hold “bilateral talks with President Kais Ssaied and Tunisia Minister of Defense Ibrahim Bartagi.”
Esper will then deliver a speech at the American military cemetery in Carthage, “where American soldiers who died in North Africa during World War II are buried,” AFP said.
Quoting a senior US military official, AFP reported that the objective of the visit comes to strengthen ties with Tunisia, a major ally in the region, and to discuss the threats extremist organizations including ISIS and Al Qaeda pose in the North African country.
The Pentagon chief will then travel to Algeria on Thursday to hold talks with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
The US military source said the visit to Algiers seeks to “deepen cooperation with Algeria on key regional security issues, such as the threat posed by extremist groups.”
AFP reported that Esper will conclude his Maghreb tour in Rabat to “strengthen the already close relations” in the field of security with Morocco.
The outlet’s source recalled that Morocco hosts the African Lion military exercise that seeks to deepen cooperation between international partners to combat the scourge of terror threats in the region.
This year’s event, however, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senior official speaking anonymously to AFP did not, however, reveal whether King Mohammed VI would personally receive the US defense secretary.
Esper’s visit comes one week after Morocco’s General Director of National Security and Territorial Surveillance (DGST-DGSN) Abdellatif Hammouchi received the US ambassador to Morocco David Fischer. They discussed bilateral cooperation between the two countries in several fields, including security.
During the meeting, the two officials discussed US-Morocco counterterrorism cooperation, which has become a model in the fight against terrorism.
American and Moroccan security officials regularly exchange visits to discuss cooperation and means to boost collaboration.
The US has long touted counterterrorism cooperation with Morocco, describing the country’s anti-terror approach as “comprehensive.”
In its annual anti-terror report, the US State of Departement said in June the country’s approach helps mitigate the threat of terrorism in the region.
The report also recalled that all Moroccan security units — including the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), DGSN, DGST, and Royal Gendarmerie — collaborate to ensure the security of Morocco.