The 17 edition of the African Lion exercise held in North Africa has been the largest and most complex to date, with 8 000 personnel from eight countries directly participating.
This is according to Major General Andrew Rohling, Commander of the US Army’s Southern European Task Force Africa and Deputy Commanding General of US Army Europe and Africa. He was speaking during a virtual media conference on 17 June.
“Eight thousand personnel from eight different countries participated directly in the exercise, and another 15 observed the training with the potential to join for African Lion 22,” he said. “Over the course of the past two weeks, we have conducted a multitude of training events across Morocco and Tunisia on the land, in the sea, and in the air, building readiness and interoperability for the joint and multinational teams. We have two more days remaining in the exercise, but I’m already incredibly proud of all the efforts that all the participants have put together.”
Rohling said the exercise “gets as close as we can to the range of military operations that we expect and must be prepared for in this complex and uncertain security environment across Africa. So this exercise, as I’ve noted, involves air, ground, and naval manoeuvres from the individual to the squad up to the joint task force level that involve thousands of servicemembers, again, from multiple countries. So I think that this exercise is exactly what it is designed for and ready to compete against that extremist threat that is here across the African continent.
“Violent extremist organizations in the Sahel have an impact across stability for all of the Sahel and Africa, and it’s a threat to everyone not just in Africa but across Europe. And so exercises such as African Lion help maintain our readiness and our ability to deal with such a threat, and so the partnership you’ve seen today – again, with over 15 observer countries and eight participants – show the solidarity towards fighting extremism and instability across the region.”
Rohling said African Lion tries to incorporate a range of military operations into the exercise scenarios, from humanitarian to disaster relief to potential conflict. “We conducted a live humanitarian relief exercise north of Agadir that has seen over 7 000 patients conducted over 20 000 different medical operations. So real, live humanitarian assistance. We exercised a disaster relief exercise in the Port of Agadir that, much like the unfortunate incident in Lebanon where they had a large explosion in the port, that assets that were there to assist and help maintain both security and recovery was exercised. And lastly, we exercised in a command post computer-driven exercise, large-scale combat operations that would help us fight a whole different level of warfare. So this exercise gave us the opportunity to train for and to look at ways to improve across the full spectrum of potential missions for North Africa, and Africa writ large.
Rohling expects Exercise African Lion 2022 to be even bigger. “As we’re nearing the end of this year’s exercise, we’re already of course looking forward with anticipation and promise to African Lion 22. We’ve gained an incredible experience over the past few weeks, and we are already building upon that momentum. We see African Lion’s 18th iteration to grow exponentially. As we continue to watch world events closely, we know that threats and challenges exist on every continent. Our goal is to bring together partners and allies to ensure we are ready to address security challenges, whether that be humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, or conflict. Judging from the progress we’ve made in 2021, I know that this team will be even stronger when we execute African Lion 22.”