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West, North African countries host month-long US-funded military exercise

18 nations and approximately 8 000 personnel will participate in African Lion 2023, US Africa Command's largest annual combined joint exercise.

18 nations and approximately 8 000 personnel will participate in African Lion 2023, US Africa Command’s largest annual combined joint exercise.

Facebook/ US Africa Command (AFRICOM)

  • A US military exercise comprising 18 countries got underway last week. 
  • One of its aims is to equip African armies with enhanced maritime, cyber and biological security skills.
  • Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia are the hosts of the month-long military expo.

A premier US military exercise encompassing 18 countries got under way last week in locations across West and North Africa. Most of the participating nations are from the continent.

The month-long African Lion 23rd edition exercise is taking place in Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia, and it’s the “centrepiece of the Africom (African Command) exercise strategy and one of the greatest US exercises across the globe,” said United States Africa Command Chief of Staff, Major-General Joel Tyler.

Tyler said the US was working with allies to strengthen their defence abilities, and “our collective ability to bring like-minded nations together for an exercise like this is truly impressive”.

This year’s African Lion is attended by 8 000 service members, up from 7 500 last year. 

Maritime security

The exercise is exploring challenges faced by African countries, especially in “maritime choke points and global shipping lanes”.

Africa has a 48 000 km coastline that is shared by 38 coastal states. This coastline is resource-rich and contains some of the world’s most important sea lanes, such as the Gulf of Guinea and the approaches to the Suez Canal, which together carry 13% of global trade.

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Africa’s maritime problems include piracy, illegal fishing, pollution, kidnapping, human trafficking, smuggling, and terrorism.

According to the United Nations, the economic cost of piracy in West Africa alone was estimated to be around R15.542 billion ($777.1 million) last year. 

Last month in the Gulf of Guinea, pirates highjacked a Danish-owned tanker – Monjasa Reformer – which was carrying oil and chemicals. 

It was eventually located by the French navy off São Tomé and Príncipe, reports said.

Show of power

According to Africom, modern US army aircraft would be used for exercises and a science-based approach to war situations would be explored.

“This year’s exercise features multiple combined arms live fire exercises; a maritime exercise; an air exercise with US C-130J Super Hercules, KC-135 Stratotanker, F-16 Fighting Falcons and bomber aircraft; a joint forcible entry with paratroopers into a field training exercise; two chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear response exercises; and three humanitarian civic assistance program events,” Africom said in a statement.

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The exercise will also enhance armies’ capabilities in using computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information.

“Africom-sponsored exercises bolster partnerships between African, US and other international militaries, increasing interoperability during crisis and operations to increase security and stability in the region,” Africom said.

“The annual exercise provides unmatched opportunities for participation and cooperation on the African continent,” the US Africa Command website stated.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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