28/06/2020 – Algeria is flexing its military muscles by building a new army base on the Moroccan border. Construction on the new strategic base has already begun, according to Algerian news outlets.
The decision to launch construction works directly opposite the proposed site for Morocco’s new Jerada barracks is, according to Algerian newspaper Al-Shourouk, a question of reciprocity.
In late May, Morocco’s head of government announced plans to build “a small military base intended to accommodate troops.” The Moroccan military allocated a 23-hectare plot near Jerada in the Ben Ali forest for the troop depot.
An official statement from the Moroccan military on May 31 clarified that the Jerada barracks would be much smaller than an active military base and would not have the facilities to be used for operations. The site for the depot is near Oujda, 38 kilometers from the Algerian border.
Despite the small scale of the project and clarity from the Moroccan government that the Jerada barracks would be a troop depot rather than an active military base, Algeria perceived the move as hostile and responded in kind.
Observers have speculated that the Moroccan base is, in fact, intended to house soldiers who are deployed in the region as part of Morocco’s clampdown on drug trafficking and terror cells.
Undisclosed government sources told Al-Shourouk that Algeria sees the construction of the new base as a necessary move in the interests of national security. The source claimed that “the construction of a Moroccan military base [near the border] shows a clear hostile plan towards Algeria, and reveals the implementation of hostile international agendas against the stability of the region.”
Responding to aggression?
Though Algeria claims that construction of the new military base opposite the site of Morocco’s Jerada’s barracks is a response to Moroccan aggression, a deeper look at the facts tells a rather different story.
Ahead of the unveiling of Morocco’s plans to build a small barracks in Jerada, rumors surfaced that Algeria was already building its own military base in Bir Lahlou, expanding existing infrastructure in the buffer zone between Morocco and Algeria in Western Sahara.
In 2018, the Polisario Front claimed Bir Lahlou as the capital of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The breakaway group established, with the help of Algeria, a small military barracks on the site. In recent months, support from Algiers has only increased.
On June 1, Arab Weekly cited security sources who explained that “Algeria was in the process of providing the Polisario Front with 16 tanks and advanced equipment to build a wall facing the Moroccan wall from the Algerian side.”
On May 7, 2020, Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune submitted Algeria’s amended constitution for review. The text included a particular amendment: “The President of the Algerian Republic can send military units abroad if two thirds of the house vote in favor during a parliamentary session.”
Madeleine Handaji / Morocco World News
Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali) | Photo: Algeria is flexing its military muscles by building a new army base on the Moroccan border. Photo via Pixabay