Defeated in the Battle of Sands, Algeria wanted to capture Figuich

A CIA document dated October 18, 1963, focusing on the “implications of continued friction along the Moroccan-Algerian border,” addressed the issue of the sand war between the two countries on October 8 of the same year.

Classified in 2004, Document It noted that conflicts between Morocco and Algeria would “probably continue” and lead to the creation of “new hostilities” along the border. However, “in light of the limited capabilities of both armies, an outbreak of open war seems unlikely.”

“The Moroccan army is composed of 32,500 soldiers, eighteen infantry battalions, three cavalry and artillery battalions, one armor, one engineering, one light defense group and two air forces, with support units. It has 105 aircraft,” the CIA notes.

Although the Algerian army consisted of 60,000 troops, it would expand into a multi-disciplinary force of 200,000 soldiers. “Compared to the Moroccan side, it remains at a disadvantage in terms of organization, training and equipment, in addition to air reinforcement and its very limited surveillance capabilities in the air,” and “severe shortages of transport,” underlines the same source.

“If limited hostilities continue or develop into more serious clashes in Hassi Beida and Dinjob, where the current clashes are taking place, a diplomatic breakdown is likely.”

CIA document

“Even if the current crisis subsides, Morocco and Algeria will remain highly suspicious of each other,” US intelligence further explained. Furthermore, they believe that continued tensions with Algeria will “weaken the opposition in Morocco and strengthen the power of Hassan II”.

Furthermore, Algeria’s difficulties with Rabat could lead to “new hostilities” against Ahmed Ben Bella and Houari Boumeddine, due to demobilization and friction “already existing among former members of the rebel army abroad and within, which would prevent the development of an effective and credible Algerian army.”

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Algeria observes Figic after sand war

Another CIA document, dated October 21, 1963 and declassified in 2015, indicates that “Algeria is preparing to occupy the Figuich region of Morocco in response to the loss of Hassi Beida and Dinjob.” According to This sourceMilitary belligerence does not preclude “continuing diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire”.

Then Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika unexpectedly traveled to Rabat “with his Ethiopian counterpart”, “a surprising step that raised hopes of success in Haile Selassie’s mediation”. Ghana also mobilized “ambassadors on the ground”. After calling for a ceasefire and a return to the status quo, the League of Arab States appointed a mediation panel.

The same document reported earlier in the day that “Moroccans arrested at least three Egyptian officers, possibly five, on board an Algerian helicopter allegedly on a spying mission.” The arrest took place upon landing in national territory “northwest of Colomb-Becher”. “The Algerians admitted that there were five Egyptians and that the Moroccan planes had violated airspace to force the helicopter to land in Morocco.”

Morocco, for its part, confirms that “Egyptian forces were fighting alongside the Algerians, which the arrest of the officers confirms.” The war between the two countries ended with the mediation of the League of Arab States and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on February 20, 1964, in Bamako, the capital of Mali.

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