US special forces train West African armies in annual Flintlock counterterrorism drills

US special forces train West African armies in annual Flintlock counterterrorism drills

As extremist violence in the Sahel region spreads southwards toward coastal states, military personnel from several African countries, including Morocco, are being trained in counter-insurgency tactics as part of the annual United States-led military exercise known as Flintlock.

The US military launched on march 1 its annual military training exercise, which is aimed at helping armies contain the jihadi threat. Some 1,300 soldiers from 29 countries are being trained in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to boost their capacity in dealing with surging jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that has killed thousands, displaced millions and plunged countries into crises. Washington says it wants to help African countries stem the extremist threat before it spreads further across the region.

While West Africa’s inland Sahel region in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger has seen most of the Islamist extremist activity, the violence is rapidly spreading to coastal states like Ghana.

According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, particularly northern parts of the country are experiencing an upsurge in attacks — from only one in 2021 to 19 in 2022 — by unidentified groups, which could have links to jihadists. This year’s two-week US Flintlock (march 1 to 15) is taking place amid growing anti-French sentiment in West Africa. Burkina Faso and Mali have ended their military cooperation with France, complaining that the French military presence over several years has done little to stem the growth of Jihadi violence.

The African countries participating in the drills this year include Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia. Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom and United States are among the other participating nations. The operations of the multinational staff headquarters based in Accra, Ghana, will be the main focus of operations this year. Through a comprehensive scenario that includes command and control of simulated participants in various units, headquarters operations will assess and enhance the ability of participants to work together to address regional security issues.

At the same time, Western and African partners will train together remotely with the African host nation. The US Africa Command-sponsored exercises strengthen partnerships between African, US and other international military and police organizations, enhancing interoperability during crises and operations to increase security and stability in the region.

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