Flintlock, the annual African-led military exercise for inter-operability in security, counter-terrorism and humanitarian aid, started last week with an opening ceremony celebrating the spirit of co-operation.
The exercise, which beyond US participation includes Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, France, Germany, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, United Kingdom, and the host nation of Niger, focuses on building partner capacity to help strengthen stability across Africa. This year there are 18 different African and Western country participants.
For the next three weeks, more than a 1 000 soldiers from these countries will practice military drills such as airdrops of personnel or equipment, live fire ranges and delivering aid to remote areas with limited medical care.
While not focused on any particular operation or security situation, Flintlock 2014 focuses on the development of mutual security capacity while strengthening bonds among exercise participants, according to officials.
“Your presence reflects your interests in our regional partnerships. By sharing their experiences, expertise and camaraderie we share our interests in promoting stability in the region,” Nigerian Colonel Mahamane Laminou Sani, the Flintlock country co-ordinator, said.
Some of the major tactical components of Flintlock 2014 include small-unit combined training activities against counter-terrorism, along with humanitarian relief operations providing basic medical, dental and veterinary access for select communities in Niger.
The host nation led the development of the exercise’s training objectives to help build relationships between participating nations.
US leadership attended the ceremony along with their counterparts and they agree security is necessary for growth and stability. Special Operations Command Africa Commanding General Brigadier General James Linder joined African nation partners for opening ceremony activities.
During the ceremony the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Trans Sahel Commander Colonel Kenneth Sipperly, who is the Flintlock 2014 exercise co-ordinator, said: “Although Flintlock is considered an exercise, it is really an extension of ongoing training, engagement and operations that help prepare our close Africa partners in the fight against extremism and the enemies that threaten peace, stability, and regional security.
“Working together to guard against the effects of extremism will be realised by the future generations of all our countries.”
Nigerian Chief of Staff Karidio Mahamadou agreed, adding “this exercise is occurring at a time when our nations are faced with multiple obstacles within our region which requires strong resolve to confront extremism”.
Flintlock exercises have been conducted across north and western Africa since 2005 to improve the security capacity of regional military forces.