Both Algeria and Morocco were French colonies in the last century, so the French government established the borders between the two countries.
But after decolonization both countries contested this border. This resulted in an armed border conflict, also called the Sand War. This war, which took place in 1963, lasted more than 4 months, with a total of about 500 deaths. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has been very tense.
In addition, Algeria, Polisario, supports an independence movement in Western Sahara. It claims the former Spanish territory (Spanish Sahara) divided by Morocco and Mauritania. Morocco was engaged in an armed struggle with Polisario between 1975 and 1991. As of last weekend, this struggle flared up again. How big is the chance that Morocco and Algeria will fight a direct war with each other again?
In a series of video conversations the Algerian former military and politician Khaled Nezzar discusses the tense relationship between Morocco and Algeria.
The retired and high-ranking Khaled Nezzar (1939) served in the Algerian army between 1962 and 1993. He held various positions as commander of the Algerian troops stationed in Béchar-Tinduf, an area bordering Morocco. In this capacity he collaborated with Polisario. He had information about the Moroccan Army and other secret information at his disposal.
In 1990, Nezzar was appointed Minister of Defence and as such was a member of the Supreme Council of State that ruled Algeria between 1992 and 1994. In this capacity, he met King Hassan II and negotiated, among other things, the extradition of persons accused of terrorism by Algeria who had fled to Morocco.
A remarkable fact that General Nezzar reported in an interview with Algerian TV channel Echorouk News is; that he personally assured the King of Morocco that as long as the army is in power in Algeria, the Moroccan monarchy has nothing to fear from neighbouring Algeria.
This means that two dictatorial regimes in Morocco and Algeria, which have no popular support, will not fight each other, because their common opponent is the people.
The general goes on to say that the Algerian rulers have never given the green light to destabilize the Moroccan regime, although Algeria has a ready-made plan to do so. According to General Nezzar, Morocco has only a small army, which severely limits the troops’ room for manoeuvre.
In other words: Morocco, with its more than 200,000 soldiers, excluding reservists, cannot fight three potential wars at the same time (Spain in the North, Algeria in the East and Polisario in the South). And if Algeria’s aim was to destabilize the monarchy in Morocco, there was ample opportunity to do so during the coup attempts against Hassan II in 1971, 1972 and the great uprisings in Morocco in 1963 and 1984. However, Algeria never decided to do so and there are no concrete signs that the military junta in Algeria wanted to overthrow the Moroccan regime or play an important role in it.
Traslation: Najat M.