Coronavirus: Size & scope of African Lion Drills to be modified
Military leaders from the United States, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal will modify the size and scope of African Lion to minimize exposure of participating service members from the US and partner nations to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), announced the US Africa Command.
“The safety and protection of all of our forces — US and partner nation — is a priority. Modifying the exercise still improves readiness while minimizing risk to protect both US and partner forces,” said Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of US Africa Command, after testifying Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
“While the scope of the exercise will adjust, our commitment to our African partners endures,” Gen. Townsend said
Scheduled to start March 23, the US-led African Lion exercises in Morocco were supposed to involve 9,300 troops from eight nations. The exercise will now include only portions that do not require lodging of troops in close quarters. It will also include the academics portion that has already begun.
The decision to modify the size and scale of the exercise was made after several weeks of monitoring the COVID-19 situation and in close coordination with host nation military and government leaders.
“We’ve made tremendous gains in terms of our partnerships with the Moroccan, Tunisian and Senegalese forces, as well as our ability as a headquarters to forge a coalition across multiple countries, force components, national and international organizations. That experience alone makes our military stronger, and our countries more secure,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, commanding general of US Army Africa, which executes the annual exercise.
While the scope and size of African Lion 2020 has changed, planning continues for the exercise in 2021, Africom said.
African Lion is an annually scheduled, bilateral US and Moroccan sponsored exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures.
The drills, sponsored by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the US Army Africa (USARAF), involve various types of training, including command post, live-fire and maneuvering, peace keeping operations, an intelligence capacity-building seminar, aerial refueling/low- level flight training, as well as medical and dental assistance projects.
Besides Morocco and the USA, military personnel from other countries, including Egypt, Mauritania, Senegal, Tunisia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain , the United Kingdom, Australia, and Portugal are invited to take part in the African Lion exercise.
African Lion enhances the interoperability of the US, its partner nations, and regional organizations in order to contain regional instability, conduct peace operations, counter violent extremist organizations (VEOs), maintain cross-border security, and counter transnational threats.