South Africa is by far the major contributor troop-wise to October’s Amani Africa II field training exercise in preparation for final operationalisation of the African Union’s African Standby Force (ASF).
The exercise will be staged at the SA Army’s Combat Training Centre (CTC) at Lohathla in the Northern Cape from October 19 to November 7 and looks set to be the single largest military exercise yet staged in democratic South Africa. Numbers seen by defenceWeb show a total of 5,355 from strategic level through tactical and down to support taking part in the exercise.
Speaking at a media workshop in Pretoria in June ahead of the exercise Dr Sayibu Pabi Gariba, a member of the AU peace support division’s Amani Africa II exercise core planning team, indicated troops would come from regional standby forces, aligned with continental regional economic communities such as ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and SADC (Southern African Development Community).
At tactical level deployment numbers show the South African-led initiative to fill the gap until such time as the ASF is operational – the ACIRC (African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises) – will be the biggest troop contributor with 2,356.
Next biggest contributor is the SADC with 1,220 also at the tactical level and a total of 394 expected from other regional economic groupings at this level of the exercise.
Exercise strategic headquarters will be staffed by 55 senior officers, mostly drawn from the AU, while the 90 strong mission headquarters will be staffed mainly by SADC member state officers. Exercise control will be the responsibility of 103 officers drawn from regional economic communities across the continent.
As host nation for the exercise, South Africa also has the “honour” of providing the “enemy”. The opposing force (Opfor) will be a 150 strong SANDF deployment with South African soldiers also providing security, mainly in the form of military police, and other support elements, including medical. These are expected to total close to a thousand.
The field training exercise was originally set down to take place in Lesotho last October, but unrest in the landlocked country saw it relocated to South Africa.