African Lion: 2015 Edition – Caitlin Dearing Scott
Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC
February 5, 2015
The first phase of the 2015 African Lion US-Morocco joint military exercise kicked off earlier this week in Agadir. Joining 350 US service members and 150 soldiers of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces are military contingents from Germany, England, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Senegal. This week, the military exercise centers on intelligence capacity building, to be followed next week by a “Combined Joint Task force and plan for a simulated international crisis” toward the overall goal of building combined military capabilities to strengthen cooperation and operational proficiency.
The main phase of the exercise is scheduled to take place in mid-May, and will include additional personnel and contingents from the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as a simultaneous exercise with the US-Moroccan Air Force Joint Exercise “Majestic Eagle,” which will focus on aerial refueling and close air support training missions.
To recall, African Lion is an “annually scheduled, bilateral U.S. and Moroccan sponsored exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures.” It is the largest annual US military exercise on the continent (for a complete history of the exercise, see Global Security’s briefer).
African Lion is just one of the myriad ways the US and Morocco coordinate on security measures, and the two countries maintain excellent military-to-military ties. In recognition of this, the US has honored Morocco with “major non-NATO ally status,” which qualifies Morocco for increased US military cooperation. Beyond joint exercises, cooperation includes intelligence sharing, measures to stop terrorist financing, law enforcement partnerships, and a number of other multilateral efforts (such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum).
During the US-Africa Leaders Summit in August 2014, the two countries signed a Framework for Cooperation on Training for Civilian Security Services “to develop mutual expertise in the areas of crisis management, border security, and terrorism investigations to strengthen regional counterterrorism capabilities and to deny space to terrorists and terrorist networks.” The framework also outlines steps to develop Moroccan training experts and then jointly train forces in partner countries in the Maghreb and Sahel – a clear sign that the US continues to recognize Morocco’s vital role in promoting stability and security region.
Given ongoing security challenges, this cooperation – and this joint exercise – is more vital than ever.