As law enforcement officers and elected representatives of our states, it is our responsibility to uphold the rule of law. We hold a strong belief that America’s security is served very well when the rule of law is upheld. For that reason, we work regularly with colleagues in the United States and abroad to prevent and prosecute crimes, and we take this responsibility very seriously.
Recently, we were asked as part of our membership in the Conference of Western Attorneys General to visit Morocco to learn about the country’s efforts to counter human trafficking, cyber terrorism and transnational organized crimes. We found a country that cares deeply about security and rule of law, in a region hostile to both. We witnessed the popularity of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the effects of his wise, progressive leadership on Morocco’s socioeconomic development and regional influence. Since his accession to the throne in 1999, the king of Morocco has embraced technological advances to modernize the nation while preserving its core principles and traditions.
It was a valuable trip and serves the interest of our states and our national interest. Our delegation of attorneys general worked with and learned from Moroccan officials, law enforcement authorities and religious leaders.
We also saw firsthand how Moroccans are using innovative methods to curb radicalism and violent extremism, and we believe we contributed to the ongoing strength of a valuable diplomatic friendship.
The United States and Morocco are not strangers. In fact, Morocco is America’s oldest continuous ally. In 1777, the North African kingdom became the first nation to recognize United States independence. The subsequent signing of the Treaty of Marrakesh in 1786 kicked off the longest uninterrupted U.S.-foreign relationship.
Those ties remain of the highest importance today, especially in the global fight against terrorism and extremism. And we learned how a Muslim majority nation is addressing these challenges, against threats both foreign and domestic, and promoting shared interests and ideals in a region growing increasingly unstable.
Our itinerary included a visit to the Mohammed VI Institute for Imam Training. This center trains imams, both male and female, from Morocco and beyond and promotes a moderate version of Islam, one at peace with the non-Muslim world, which respects the rights of minority faiths and peoples and upholds the rights of women. Morocco’s successful approach is best highlighted by the number of foreign imams from Africa, Europe and the Middle East being trained in this institute.
We also discovered that Morocco has been training for over a decade young women as morchidates (female preachers) who also contribute to promote the moderate values of Islam throughout the kingdom while neutralizing radical extremist thinking.
In addition, the government inaugurated a separate counterterrorism institute in keeping with the king’s vision to maintain Morocco’s role as an exporter of regional security and peace. The center includes security training facilities, foreign language training, and other innovative efforts. Morocco’s security forces, its counterterrorism and counter radicalism policies, as well as its active regional and international cooperation are today internationally recognized and praised.
Of course, we could not visit Morocco without touching on broader regional issues and ongoing conflicts, some of which have implications for U.S. security and law enforcement.
We met with the governor of the Dakhla province and the head of its regional investment center and witnessed a variety of developmental projects. This port city is located in the Western Sahara region at the heart of a Cold War-era dispute dating back to 1975, when Spain’s occupation of the territory ended. Following the administrative transfer of this territory to Morocco, sanctioned by the Madrid Accords, a 15 year war broke out between the kingdom and the Polisario Front, an armed group backed by the government of neighboring Algeria and the Soviet Bloc.
A United Nations ceasefire has been in place since 1991, and U.N. representatives are working to broker a solution between Morocco and the Polisario Front. Since 2007, Morocco has offered an autonomy proposal, which enjoys a large bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress as a win-win compromise solution in a bid to bring peace to the region. This autonomy proposal has been supported by a succession of U.S. administrations as being a serious and credible approach to ending the dispute. Despite this gesture of compromise, very little progress has been achieved.
Although this dispute remains a frozen conflict with seemingly little relevance amidst a variety of hotspots in different parts of the world, it remains nevertheless pertinent today as it threatens to undermine a vital U.S. ally in North Africa.
Earlier this year, Morocco severed diplomatic ties with Iran over its backing of the Polisario. Morocco’s foreign minister condemned Iran as well as Hezbollah, the militant Iranian proxy based in Lebanon, for their support to Polisario fighters through a logistical base in Algeria. This should not come as a surprise given that Iran has been seeking to destabilize a number of states, in an effort to weaken the U.S. allies in the Middle East and North Africa, and in so doing, creates a security risk to our friends and our nation.
These events and accusations underscore the need for continued U.S. support to help Morocco resolve the Western Sahara conflict, to deepen its strong military and security cooperation and assist the country in its ongoing efforts to modernize its justice system.
Nowhere in the region do our interests and our values coincide more than they do in Morocco. Most people fail to acknowledge the importance of Morocco as an ally, but also as a leader in the fight against extremism.
We must stand by the kingdom as it continues to lead the way in the region in terms of reforms and as an exporter of peace while at the same time addressing the challenges brought by increased regional instability, rising extremism and external threats from Iran. As the chief law enforcement officers of our respective states, we hope to continue to consult with our colleagues in Morocco to further cooperate on law enforcement matters. Allies are indispensable in our pursuit for peace and justice, and we look forward to learning more from and supporting our Moroccan friends on these and other critical matters.
The following U.S. state attorneys general, members of the Conference of Western Attorneys General, visited Morocco in October 2017: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are co-chairs of the Conference of Western Attorneys General Alliance Partnership.