Morocco hosts the largest military exercise ever conducted by the US in Africa
The largest military exercise ever conducted by the United States of America on the African continent. General Andrew Rohling, commander of the US armed forces for Southern Europe and Africa described African Lion 2021, the maxi-joint activity that started in Morocco on Monday 7 June and will end today.
With over 7,800 military personnel, 21 fighter-bombers, 46 transport aircraft, 100 land-based heavy vehicles, and several naval units from nine countries (in addition to the United States and Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Canada), the direct contribution of NATO and 21 “international observers” (African Union, Burkina Faso, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, Gabon, Djibouti, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and Qatar), African Lion was launched during an official ceremony at Agadir airbase.
African Lion 2021 is an annual joint and multinational exercise directed by the Command of US Africom and is an excellent example of the long-term commitment of the United States of America to Africa, a continent that is deemed to be of strategic importance. Commented General Stephen Townsend, at the head of the US Armed Forces Command for operations on the continent. It is closely linked to the series of exercises called Defender of the US Command in Europe to counter the threats to security in North Africa and Southern Europe and to increase interoperability between the US and African armed forces and international partners to defend the area. from enemy military aggression.
“This exercise is all about our and our partners’ operational readiness,” General Townsend added. “It provides the opportunity for shared learning by the United States and African allies, strengthening collective efforts for greater security and stability across the region.” Also, according to the General Command of US Africom, African Lion 21 includes a series of aerial exercises with bombing actions, interceptions, and aerial refuelling in flight, plus some naval activities between the US and Morocco off the Atlantic coast.
“Minor exercises are also underway with the aircraft available to the Air Force Global Strike Command (F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, and KC-135 Strat tankerrefuelling aircraft), more diverse paratrooper launch activities”, reports US Africom.
The war games program provided by the Moroccan armed forces to the national press agency MAP is more detailed. “The objectives of African Lion 2021 are numerous: strengthening the manoeuvring capabilities of participating units and planning and conducting joint operations within a coalition; the improvement of tactics, techniques, and procedures; the development of cyber defense strategies; training of the air component in conducting the attack, support, and refuelling; consolidation in the area of maritime safety; conducting exercises at sea in the field of naval tactics and conventional warfare “, reports the MAP agency. “It includes, in addition to training and simulations of command activities in the fight against terrorist organizations, land, air, sea and nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical decontamination activities”. Finally, a joint intervention (civil-military) is planned with the construction of a hospital unit in Amlen (Tafraout) in favor of the local populations with doctors and nurses from the Moroccan armed forces and the US Army.
The geographical area involved in the multinational exercise is very large: it affects almost all of Morocco, from the Kenitra airbase in the north of the country to the central region of Agadir and Ben Guérir and in the desert region of Tafraout, up to the southern provinces of Tiznit and Tan-Tan and in the great military polygon of Grier Labouihi. Tactical-military activities have also been planned in Senegal and Tunisia.
A significant part of Africa Lion is also taking place in the former Spanish Sahara, the vast area occupied in 1976 by the armed forces of Morocco, in defiance of international law. Specifically, this is the Mahbès area, very close to the hyper militarized “wall” built on the border with Algeria, about forty kilometers by air from the desert region of Tindouf where the refugee camps administered by the fighting Polisario Front are located. for the independence of the Sahrawi people. In Mahbes, in particular, the US military is testing the HIMRAS multiple missile launch system, which has an operational range of 300 kilometers, in fire exercises. Mahbes is also the scene of US and Moroccan parachutes and assault troops.
The prime minister of the North African kingdom, Salah Eddine Othmani, affirmed that the inclusion of the Saharan region in African Lion 2021 represents the US recognition of the sovereignty of Morocco in Western Sahara. It must be said that was Republican President Donald Trump who declared himself in favor of the Moroccan annexation of the former Spanish colony, a few weeks before leaving the White House.