Cablegate: Aphsct Townsend's Visit to Morocco

DE RUEHRB #1229/01 2121536
P 311536Z JUL 07

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 RABAT 001229



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/10/2027

Classified by Ambassador Thomas Riley for reasons 1.4 (b) and

1. (S/NF) Summary: During her July 6-8 visit to Morocco,
Frances Fragos Townsend, Assistant to the President for
Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, met with the chiefs
of Morocco's intelligence service, the internal security
service, the chief of the national police, the Minister of
Interior, and his deputy, a senior royal advisor. Townsend
thanked her hosts for Morocco's excellent cooperation in the
global war on terrorism, including significant efforts to
shut down the foreign fighter pipeline to Iraq. The
Moroccans affirmed that they highly value security
cooperation and support from the USG as they continue to
confront a substantial and growing terror threat that extends
across North Africa and the Sahel. Townsend also visited
the sites of twin suicide bombings near the U.S.
Consulate-General and the (private) American Language Center
and received a briefing on efforts to augment security for
U.S. buildings and personnel in the city. End summary.

2. (S/NF) Frances Fragos Townsend, Assistant to the President
for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, was hosted for a
July 7 working lunch in Rabat by Yassine Mansouri, Chief of
the External Studies Directorate General (DGED), Morocco's
premier intelligence agency. Joining the lunch were
Abdelatif Hammouchi, Director-General for Territorial
Surveillance (DGST), which has the lead on domestic
counterterrorism operations, and Charki Draiss, Chief of the
National Police force (DGSN). Townsend was accompanied by
Ambassador Riley, Adnan Kifayat and John Pearson of the NSC
staff, and Emboffs.

3. (S/NF) Welcoming Townsend to Morocco, DGED Chief Mansouri
affirmed that the country has enjoyed a long-standing and
very cooperative security relationship with the USG, to the
benefit of both sides. Townsend expressed U.S. satisfaction
with the security relationship and particular gratitude for
Morocco's robust efforts to shut down the foreign fighter
pipeline to Iraq. The Moroccans made clear that stopping
foreign fighters bound for Iraq or other destinations was a
major GOM priority.

4. (S/NF) DGST Chief Hammouchi noted that Morocco has
disrupted 83 different terrorist cells since the 2003
Casablanca bombings. A number of cells identified have had
connections to the Algerian GSPC, he noted. Mansouri added
that the terrorist adversary is "very strategically minded"
and is always seeking ways to maximize the impact of attacks
by exploiting outside events. Townsend strongly agreed: The
timing of the attempted car bombs in London and the Glasgow
airport attack to coincide with the transition from the Blair
to the Brown government, was a case in point, she opined.

5. (S/NF) Townsend asked her hosts about the GOM's approach
to monitoring and controlling materials that can be
precursors to explosives. TATP, which was used in the April
attacks in Morocco, is made from readily available
ingredients, she noted. Hammouchi stated that the broad
availability of explosive precursors was a source of
frustration for the GOM. He recalled a case in which a
violent Jihadist had sent his wife on 38 separate trips, in
multiple cities, to buy hydrogen peroxide from pharmacies.
"Our only weapon against this phenomenon is information,"
Hammouchi opined.

6. (S/NF) The security chiefs underlined their conviction
that the terrorist threat to Morocco was transnational in
nature. At least 12 cells wrapped up in recent years have
had direct connections to groups operating in Algeria,
Northern Mali, and Spain. Of particular concern is recent
information that a number of individuals in terror camps in
Northern Mali have moved from training units to operational
units. This information, and the approach of important
events on Morocco's political calendar, such as the "Fete du
Throne" (Throne Day) and the parliamentary elections in early
September, prompted Morocco to elevate its alert level on
July 5.

7. (S/NF) Townsend asked the security chiefs for their
assessment of CT cooperation between the countries of the
Maghreb region. Cooperation with the Algerians was erratic,
Hammouchi assessed. Sometimes they provide very good
information and sometimes it seems like a one-way street.
They make difficult partners, Mansouri added, speculating
that they still suffered psychic trauma from their bloody

RABAT 00001229 002 OF 003

struggle against terror in the 1990s, a battle they fought
largely on their own. Security cooperation with Libya has
been good, Mansouri noted, they are ready to work with us and
exchange information. There has been an improvement in
cooperation with the Tunisians as well, he continued, though
he opined that they are still prone to denial in assessing
the terror threat.

8. (S/NF) Turning to the ideological front in the war on
terror, the security chiefs affirmed that CT disruption and
preemption operations alone were not sufficient to defeat the
enemy. "We have had to become involved in the ideological
battle, even if this isn't our business," Hammouchi stated.
"Unfortunately, political and diplomatic restraints often
limit our ability to act," he added. Citing President Bush,
Townsend affirmed the U.S. belief that the war of words and
ideas is a core theater of battle, but often an area where
Muslim leaders can be more effective than Americans.

9. (S/NF) Townsend asked about lines of authority within the
Moroccan government in pursuing the ideological battle
against terrorists. Mansouri responded that there was a
diffusion of authority, with the security agencies, the
Ministry of Communications, and the Ministry of Religious
Affairs all countering extremism in different ways. Townsend
observed that this mirrored the diffusion of
counter-extremist efforts in the USG, but wondered if both
systems wouldn't benefit from centralization of efforts.

10. (S/NF) Subsequent to the lunch, Minister of Interior
Chakib Benmoussa welcomed Townsend, the Ambassador, NSC
staff, and emboffs to his office. The Minister was joined by
Minister-Delegate Fouad Ali Himma (who, as a long-standing
friend and close advisor of King Mohammed VI, is generally
considered more powerful than the Minister), and senior MOI
officials Khalid Zerouali, Mohieddine Amzazi, Noureddine
Benbrahim, and Abderahmane Achour.

11. (S/NF) Affirming her appreciation of strong bilateral
security cooperation, Townsend asked her hosts for more
background on Morocco's recent decision to elevate its state
of alert. The Minister said that information developed
following recent arrests of Moroccans in the U.K., Spain, and
Morocco, a continuing stream of general threat information,
and upcoming events including the Fete du Throne and the
legislative elections all prompted Moroccan security
officials to conclude that it would be prudent to elevate the
alert level.

12. (S/NF) Townsend expressed understanding, mentioning the
USG's experience that it was relatively easy to raise the
alert level, but more difficult to bring it back down.
Explaining such decisions to the public was always tricky,
she added. Himma agreed that the relationship between the
security services and the public was crucially important and
merited constant attention. Educating the public about the
nature of the threat and enlisting them as allies is
particularly important he added.

13. (S/NF) Defending the Malikite rite of Islam, native to
Morocco, against intolerant theological strains flowing out
of the Middle East was a major priority for King Mohammed VI
and his government, Himma emphasized. He asserted that in
Morocco "our people are religious and conservative, but not
fundamentalist. Our rite is completely opposed to radical
theology." Himma cited recent efforts to overhaul and
upgrade the religious education system in the country,
traditionally subsidized by the monarchy. The GOM is working
hard to strike a balance between Moroccan tradition and
modernity, seeking to take the best from both. Himma also
cited the King's human development initiative, launched in
2005, as an important piece of the counter-extremist puzzle.

14. (S/NF) Townsend complimented the Minister for Morocco's
apparent success in integrating various elements of the GOM
involved in countering terror and extremism into a cohesive
team. Himma affirmed that the GOM strives to work as one
integrated unit, and also lauded the strong security
cooperation Morocco enjoys with countries like the U.S. and
Spain. "But our ambition is even higher," Himma continued.
We would like to have the same level of coordination and
cooperation with our neighboring countries, particularly

15. (S/NF) Recalling a visit to Algiers as the King's
personal envoy, Himma asserted that repeated Moroccan efforts

RABAT 00001229 003 OF 003

to bridge the diplomatic chasm had been rebuffed. He claimed
that he had told the Algerians that Morocco was prepared to
reopen its border and take any of a number of other
confidence building measures, "but the Algerians would never
tell us what they want." He attributed what he described as
Algerian intransigence to a generational and mind-set gap
between the leaderships of the two countries. Noting that
Algiers was the next stop on her multi-country itinerary,
Townsend said she would encourage the GOA to expand security
cooperation with Morocco and to work hard to realize a
broader rapprochement with its neighbor.

16. (S/NF) Prior to her arrival in Rabat, Townsend visited
the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca, which was targeted
during a twin suicide bomb attack on April 14. The CG, RSO,
and Emboffs briefed Townsend on the incident, showing her the
site of the bomb which detonated near the Consulate General,
and the site of the bombing which targeted the American
Language Center one block away, which was apparently mistaken
for a USG facility. Townsend reviewed CCTV footage of the
attack, and received a briefing on upgrades being implemented
to enhance the physical security of Consulate facilities and

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