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Royal Moroccan Army

Forces Armes RoyalesThe Royal Moroccan Army, which by 1985 had nearly tripled in manned strength from its level 10 years earlier, did not have separate command or staff elements. Rather, as a consequence of policy and the army's status as the predominant military service, the FAR inspector general and the FAR General Staff were formally regarded as the commander and headquarters staff, respectively, of the army. In reality, of course, the king and the Forward Headquarters performed these functions.

Morocco's army is organized within two zones -- the Northern Zone, which is responsible for the defense of Morocco itself, and the Southern Zone, which handles operations connected with Western Sahara. The major bases/HQs are at Rabat and Agadir. Within the zonal command formations are three mechanized infantry brigades, two brigades of parachute-trained infantry, eight mechanized infantry regiments and a light logistical support brigade. Units rotate into the Southern Operational Zone for deployment against the POLISARIO Front units as the tactical situation demands.

A comprehensive domestic training system is in place but Moroccan troops are also trained in France and have the benefit of US advisers. Moroccan Army training teams are on loan to the armed forces of Equatorial Guinea and the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi). The army is competent and has concentrated on counterinsurgency operations in Western Sahara. It also has expertise in mountain and desert warfare. The FAR is, however, considered underfunded and lacks spare parts.

During the later part of the 19th Century the Moroccan army had undergone a transformation. The organisation of a national standing army was the first blow struck at the exclusive privilege of the Makhzen tribes. These tribes had in fact supplied the sole armed force of the Sultans, and it was for this very reason that they had been declared Makhzen. As the Turks had soon ceased to be a menace to Morocco, the Makhzen army, in its original form, had been sufficient to carry out its task of keeping the tribes in check. The appearance of an external danger with the French conquest in Algeria compelled the Sultans to devise a new military system. The experience of Isly demonstrated the powerlcssncss of the old army, and the approach of the Christians made it possible for Moulay Abderrahman to bring home to his people the need for a national army, in which the contingents of all the submissive tribes should be incorporated in a permanent fashion.

His son, Sidi Mohammed, was the founder of the new Moroccan army. Under his reign the mokhaznii ceased to form the active army, and were reduced to forming the permanent garrison of the Makhzen cities, and also act as gendarmes. The permanent askar, and temporary noualb, furnished by the tribes, became the effective force, which took part in all the Shereefian expeditions, and it was the policy of Sidi Mohammed and Moulay el-Hassan to be continually increasing the number of the tribes who would consent to furnish these contingents. Gradually the submissive tribes ended by consenting, and by the end of the 19th Century no resistance was met with, save among the Khlot and the people of the Gharb.

The ancient Makhzen system was disappearing, and the mokhaznis no longer possessed their old-time value. Their mounas and ratcbi were carelessly paid, and the illustrious corps of the Bouakhar was falling more and more into decay. The Sheraga, who seemed best to have maintained their position, did not exceed 4500 horsemen, and the Oudai'a 2000. The creation of a national army necessarily reduced the authority of the Makhzen tribes. Henceforward all are called to serve the Sovereign, and, among the askar, the tabors of the Makhzen tribes are in no way distinguished from those of the other tribes.

Despite this military degradation, which befell them in the middle of the nineteenth century, the Makhzen succeeded in maintaining their predominance in the Government of Morocco. Their privileged place in the imperial guard and among the employments of the palace continued to secure them access to the sovereign, whose councils they dominated. Up to the death of Moulay el-Hassan, who preserved a strict observance of the traditions of his dynasty, the chief men of the Makhzen were sprung, as a general rule, from Makhzen tribes.

By 1910 the Regular infantry consisted of 19 tabors, 16 of which remained near the Sultan, and the remaining 3 garrison Siis and Marakesch (Morocco). The the tabor, which varied from 200 to 1,000 men, was the real unit; it was commanded by a caid-agha assisted by a khalifa [successor], and is divided into companies of 100 men each under a catd-mia. Each company had its own banner. The caid-agha and the oaid-mia are the only two ranks of officer. The mokaddem, immediately inferior to them, corresponded to a non-commissioned officer ; the sergeant-major, when there was one, was called a bach-chaouch. As a rule, all billets and promotions were awarded personally by the Sultan, who thus rewards either the members of the Imperial family who have gained his confidence, or other chiefs who are in his favour. Frequently a Moroccan, who had passed all his life in some State office was suddenly raised to general's rank and placed at the head of an expedition.

Moroccan troops participated in the French War in Indochina. Moroccan forces witnessed Ho Chi Minh and his guerrillas drain French forces and the foreign legionnaires, which culminated in their defeat in Diem Bien Phu. When Morocco gained its independence in 1956, Moroccans were fighting under French and Spanish flags as well as with the National Liberation Army (ALN). Hassan went to Paris to negotiate the transition for self-rule and to establish a Moroccan Armed Force of 15,000 troops. Mohammed V went directly to ALN leaders to acknowledge their contributions to the Nation's independence. He offered each fighter the opportunity to join the Moroccan Armed Forces and employed many of them as border guards. He instituted a 9-month training program to ease the Moroccan's transition to the regular army, and he brought ALN leaders and formations to the palace in Rabat to go through a military inspection and a presentation of colors before the King.

Following the 1972 coup attempt, King Hassan took strong steps that stripped the military, especially the air force, of much of its power. Hassan took over as his own minister of defense and chief of staff. Hassan showed his apparently well-founded distrust of the military by virtually disarming the ground forces and tightly controlling ammunition and all military operations.




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