TALIM CSTM briefing

CSTM Director Omar Hassein briefing National War College group

NESA = Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, part of National Defense University (NDU)

NWC = National War College, also part of NDU

Last week saw two separate groups representing different aspects of professional military education (PME) converge on TALIM.  The historic American Legation was part of the draw, but so was the chance to meet with academics and officials concerned with Morocco's strategic location astride the Strait of Gibraltar (we had to look up the acronym SOG).

Faculty and staff from NESA as well as a group of students (colonel level military and diplomats) from NWC met with Professor Rachid El Houdaigui, director of Abdelmalik Essaadi University's Euro-Mediterranean Studies Masters Program, as well as with a number of his students and recent graduates.  The discussion naturally touched on developments in the region post-Arab Spring, especially relations among the countries of the Maghreb and across the Mediterranean with the EU and NATO.

Dr. George Reed of UC San Diego provides a nice summary of the value of the war college experience for officers who have spent their careers commanding troops, but not necessarily contemplating the strategic context.  Calling it an "intellectual awakening," Reed describes the liberating experience of free debate and inquiry.


TALIM CSTM control room

Omar Hassein in the CSTM control room

In the field, the group traveled to the Strait of Gibraltar, eyeballing the extensive facilities of Tangier-Med port, which occupy a long swath of Morocco's northern coastline.  The high point of the field trip was to the CSTM, Morocco's VTS (Vessel Traffic Services) center inaugurated by King Mohammed VI in late 2010.

Perched on the tip of the Malabata Peninsula jutting out into the Strait, the CSTM control room must seem like it's on the prow of a ship at night, with only ship lights and the street lights of Tarifa in Spain looming in the dark.

CSTM is part of the network of vessel traffic centers in the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which provided training to the multilingual staff of the center (CSTM director Omar Hassein and his staff have backgrounds in merchant shipping, and the center is under the Ministry of Equipment and Transport).  As our group was briefed at the numerous consoles showing shipping lanes and vessel positions, the microphone crackled with radio transmissions from vessels making their mandatory reports to CSTM.

The National War College students summed up the visit – to CSTM but also to Tangier – with the appreciation that national security is composed of many elements, not the least of which is the web of institutions like CSTM which make important contributions to maritime safety and security in one of the most strategic bodies of water in the world.

We at TALIM were pleased to welcome NWC and NESA, just as earlier we hosted Olmsead Scholars.  Professional Military Education has its place here too.

Gerald Loftus

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