When the noncombatant USNS Grapple called into Tangier last year, it was the first time in a decade and a half that a Navy ship had come to town. So I guess that their reports were generally positive, since we now have a year later a warship, the frigate USS Elrod. This morning, students from the American School of Tangier (AST) visited the ship, and this evening "le tout Tanger" will be aboard for a reception.
Frigates are on our minds these days – American and Moroccan. The Moroccan Navy (and Prince Moulay Rachid) accepted delivery of Morocco's newest frigate, the Mohammed VI, in the French naval port of Brest in Brittany last week. What a sleek, futuristic vessel, said to be Africa's most modern. Check this French-language article for a couple of videos showing the ship under construction and during sea trials.
With its 1,835 kilometers of coastline on the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the strategic Strait of Gibraltar, it is entirely normal that Morocco would want the best for its Navy. The new naval base at Ksar Seghir, between Tangier and the Tangier-Med port, was designed with modern ships like the Mohammed VI in mind.
And this week's port visit by the USS Elrod also shows that the security pillar of the Morocco-US relationship is on course. That's how relations all started back in the 18th century: it was Morocco's outward-looking view across the Atlantic that led its Sultan to be the first foreign head of state to recognize "the Americans," before the new country was even called the United States.
Text: Gerald Loftus; photos: Mohammed Jadidi and Allan MacArthur