After a 29-year truce, war has broken out again in Western Sahara, pitting the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, which claim the territory as part of Morocco, against the Saharawi Army, the militant resistance force seeking to establish an independent republic for the Saharawi people.
With the Moroccan forces equipped by the Americans and French, and the Saharawis using mostly Soviet and Russian weapons, the match-up in the desert wastes seems a step out of time.
The indigenous Saharawi Army fields an eclectic mix of Soviet Cold War-era hardware donated to them by the Algerians, as well as whatever American and French equipment they can capture from the Moroccans.
The Saharawis also have an array of technicals – pickup trucks converted into mobile weapons platforms by installing machine guns or anti-aircraft cannons on the back, which are common on the isolated battlefields of sub-Saharan Africa.
Prelude to War
In October, Saharawi demonstrators began a sit-in protest at the southern border town of Guerguerat, a neutral zone on the coast where Morocco has built a road into Mauritania. The protesters aimed to block Moroccan export of goods extracted from Western Sahara, which the United Nations has ruled is against international law, as well as to put pressure on the UN to begin monitoring human rights in Western Sahara and to hold its long-promised independence referendum.
Then, on November 13, the Moroccan military dispersed the occupation protest with force, violating…