U.S. expands military presence in Morocco to monitor Libya, Al Qaida

Diplomatic sources said the U.S. military has been sending troops and aircraft to the North African kingdom. They said the U.S. Air Force was deploying personnel at Morocco's southern military base in Geulmim.

"The word is that the Americans are in Guelmim to monitor Libya," a diplomat said.

The sources said the U.S. military was using Morocco to keep an eye on Libya as well as Al Qaida's presence in North Africa. They said the two countries have intensified consultations amid the civil war in Libya, which began in February.

"There has been a significant expansion in counter-terrorism cooperation in 2011 with Morocco," the diplomat said.

About 50 U.S. Air Force officers were said to have arrived in Morocco since February. The sources said the officers were believed to have brought reconnaissance and other advanced systems to monitor regional threats, particularly Al Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb.

On April 28, Morocco and the United States concluded defense cooperation talks in Rabat. A Moroccan military statement said the U.S. delegation, which included military and Pentagon officials, was headed by Joseph McMillan, principal deputy assistant defense secretary.

Rabat and Washington have been holding sessions every two years as part of military cooperation. The Moroccan statement did not provide details of the talks.

[Source: World Tribune, Cairo, 04May11]

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