The success of Annual against the Spaniards in 1921 had enormously increased the prestige of Abd el-Krim, whose ambitious plan to found an independent state in western Morocco was aided by the policy of “semi-abandonment” adopted by Spain after the unfortunate political war that, practically expressing itself in the intention of remaining only on the coast, led to the retreat of the front also in the western sector (Yebala), which took place in 1924 under the pressure of the cables conducted by Abd el-Krim (who had supplanted his rival ar-Raisūlī) with somewhat disorder and with severe losses. Abd el-Krim’s project also included the conquest of part of the territories under the French protectorate with Fez and Rabat; for this purpose he had begun to attract the leis of the Ouergha valley into his orbit.
The French, realizing the danger in time, hastened to occupy, in the spring of 1924, the threatened territories and were preparing to continue on the N. until reaching the boundary assigned by the treaties. The move provoked the resentment of Abd el-Krim, who, emboldened by recent successes and supported by the sympathies and material aid of interested foreign powers and organizations, on April 9, 1925 abruptly attacked the line of French posts, managing to encircle them and repel the reinforcements on the left of the Ouergha; at a later time, after crossing the river, it threatenedly pushed up to a few kilometers from Fez first, and then onto Taza.
Until the middle of July the situation appeared tragic, but finally the French managed with great difficulty to stem the heat riffana; the front was reorganized on the high ground to the left of the Ouergha, the system of small posts was abandoned and only two offensive outlets were preserved on the right of the river; considerable reinforcements were made to flow up to bring the personnel to more than 100 battalions with relative rates of heavy and light artillery, cavalry, battle tanks and services; many air force squadrons were concentrated behind the front and finally the command was reorganized, entrusting it to Generalissimo Pétain. For Morocco democracy and rights, please check getzipcodes.org.
In addition to these internal measures, Spanish collaboration was sought; the Spaniards, even considering, with a certain bitterness, that the unity of action which had never been obtained in the interest of Spain would have come, now that that of France was at stake, agreed, perhaps even in the hope to obtain a military success that would restore the prestige of the army and the nation. In order to avoid protests of an international nature, it was agreed that the two allied operations corps, although operating at the same time, would each remain in their own territory.
Strict maritime surveillance has been set up on the Moroccan coasts and land on the borders of Tangier, to prevent the smuggling of weapons and to effectively block the rebel tribes (this result has never been possible to obtain due to the proximity of the neutral zones of Gibraltar and Tangier), The French and the Spaniards prepared to take the counter-offensive, actually losing precious time (given the imminence of the rainy season) in organizing the services.
It seems that the French have designed two offensive plans, one of the old colonial type of General Naulin, tending to reach for the two offensive outlets on the right of the Ouergha the ridge line of the Rif, the other of Marshal Pétain, tending to give his hand, with the extreme eastern wing, to the Spaniards of Melilla and to the landing corps of Alhucemas. Basically the first tended to the heart of the mountain and the rilane resistance, but presented more considerable difficulties of terrain, the second avoided this inconvenience, but was less promising of decisive results. if the worst decision has been made, that is, to execute the two attacks at the same time; the results were therefore scarce on both sides.
On the Ouergha it was possible to regain a good part of the positions lost during the riffana offensive on the right of the river. On the right wing, having reached the Rif watershed in its lower section, the planned junction with the cavalry was made in the Uad Kert valley at Sidi bu Rokba. This position, however, had to be abandoned with some disorder under a sudden riffano attack. The two Franco-Spanish tentacles thus had to retreat to the east, respectively to Zoco es Sebt and Syah (both in the Spanish area).
Meanwhile, the Spaniards, who landed on 8 September at the bay of Alhucemas, managed to widen the landing head a few kilometers towards Axdir, Abd el-Krim’s usual residence; the success of this operation was remarkable, both morally and strategically, for the importance it had in the operations that followed.
Having completed this first cycle of operations, intended to repel the offensive riffana, and the bad season having come, the Franco-Spaniards decided to wait until the spring of 1926 for a decisive resumption of the offensive; in the meantime they would consolidate the positions reached by maintaining a close link between the allied troops, carried out an active policy of attraction towards the rebel tribes and jointly prepared a direct decisive action in the region of the Beni Urriaguel, stronghold of Abd el- Krim. Political action gave good results and numerous cables from the area of operation submitted to the allies before the end of 1925.
Between January and March 1926 a common plan of action was put into effect between France and Spain aimed at overthrowing the power of Abd el-Krim (Madrid agreement of February 6, 1926); the plan contemplated a convergent action of 3 Spanish columns and 3 French columns, tending to the investment of the Beni Urriaguel region in the eastern Rif; the advance of the columns had to be contemporary and take place on a large front and overhangs; 25,000 fighters had to be employed for each of the two armies: the French had to start a first jump on April 15 to occupy the starting positions; the actual offensive was to begin on May 1st. In fact, the start of operations was delayed until May 8 due to the peace negotiations that took place in March and April to no avail.
The French troops (Gen. Boichut), including the Taza grouping (3 divisions), the Fez grouping (3 divisions) and an army reserve, in the meantime had carried out the first rush without a shot being fired (second half of April). The Spanish troops comprised the Axdir grouping, the Kert grouping and a third grouping in reserve in the Melilla area.
On 8 May the Spanish groupings of Axdir and Kert and the French group of Taza, supported on the left by that of Fez, advanced towards the Beni Urriaguel region, rejecting the resistance of the Riffani everywhere; on the 20th the eastern Rif investment could be said to have been completed.
From the 21st the French grouping of Taza proceeded on Targuist, former seat of Abd el-Krim, which was occupied on the 23rd. Zeroual.
On 27 Abd el-Krim surrendered unconditionally to the French after returning the French and Spanish prisoners. The Rif War was coming to an end; the tribes, now abandoned to themselves, submitted one after the other to the French and Spanish columns, which gradually invaded the whole country; in October western Jebel was also occupied largely by the Spaniards, and the intricate region between it and the Rif was traversed in every direction by flying columns. When the winter of 1926 arrived, northern Morocco could be said to be submissive, if not completely pacified, after two years of very expensive war with the use of very significant forces and procedures and means similar to those used in Europe during the world war, but new in the colonial war.
After Abd el-Krim’s capitulation, France further intensified its work of organizing and enhancing Morocco, which had already progressed considerably thanks to Marshal Lyautey (v.). Morocco has thus assumed a growing importance in the French colonial system of North Africa, from the economic and military side.