The exercise is called “Desert Shield” and will bring together some 200 soldiers from Russian and Algerian counter-terrorism forces from Tuesday in the Béchar region, 80 kilometers from the Moroccan border. In a historical nod, the operations headquarters will be located on the Hammaguir base, whose existence was extended by the Évian agreements between France and Algeria for five years after independence so that the French army continues to test rockets and missiles there.
In Morocco, where the Africa Lion maneuvers took place last summer, the Algerians noted that these were the most voluminous exercises ever undertaken, with troops from the United States, NATO countries but also for the first time from Israel. “It’s teasing on the part of the Algerians to have chosen Béchar”, therefore comments a high-ranking officer from a Mediterranean country, even if the spokeswoman for Russian Foreign Affairs stresses that these joint maneuvers “do not target any third country”.
A new degree of cooperation
Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been extremely degraded since the United States decided to support Morocco on the Western Sahara issue, where the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, has been pleading for decades for an independence referendum. The fact that King Mohammed VI did not come to the recent Arab summit in Algiers is a blatant example of this.
With Desert Shield, if the manpower and equipment involved aiming to simulate “the re…