On Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper concluded a fruitful trip to north Africa where he renewed U.S.’s bilateral military cooperation with Morocco and Tunisia.

The renewed arrangements with the two north African countries will run through 2030. The American support will help protect them from the lawlessness in Libya and the Sahel. Libya borders Tunisia to the southeast and the Sahel borders Morocco to the south.

The U.S. and Tunisia have maintained close relations. The American military has provided Tunisian military members with training and helped it in securing its border with Libya. A joint U.S.-German venture in Tunisia has implemented an electronic surveillance program to help secure the border.

Since the beginning of the 2011 Libyan civil war, violence has spilled over into Tunisian territory. In particular, two attacks in November 2015 killed over 60 tourists. Later that year a bomb targeting a bus of presidential security guards killed 12.

Tunisia has been a supporter of the U.S. in the war on terrorism. It has been a target of Islamic terrorists since it supports democracy and is one of the more moderate Islamic countries. 

Secretary Esper, Tunisian President Kaïs Saied, and Tunisian Defense Minister Brahim Bartagi also met to honor the 6,500 WWII dead in the American military cemetery in Carthage. 

In the case of Morocco, it has always been a friend of Washington’s and a traditional non-NATO ally. It was among the first countries to recognize the United States in 1777 during the Revolutionary War. 

Morocco has also been a major supporter of the G5 Sahel nations. It borders Mauritania, a member of the group, with whom it seeks improved relations. Mauritania would be a key vote in allowing Morocco into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), something Rabat has wanted for some time.