Washington, DC, April 19, 2016 (MACP) — African Lion, the largest annual US joint military exercise in Africa, kicked off on Monday in Agadir, Morocco, less than a week after Morocco replaced Turkey and joined the Netherlands as new co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). The two milestones highlight the depth and breadth of Morocco’s engagement on issues of security and counterterrorism.
First launched in the 90s as a biennial US-Morocco training exercise, African Lion is now an annually scheduled, bilateral military exercise sponsored by Morocco and US Africa Command “designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures.” In this year’s iteration, US, Moroccan, German, Senegalese, Mauritanian, Italian, Spanish, Canadian, Dutch, British, and Tunisian troops will engage in military training through April 27. US service members completed a three-week intelligence training course for members of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of Mauritania last month in preparation for the exercise.
On Wednesday, April 13 at a meeting of the GCTF coordination committee, Morocco replaced Turkey and joined the Netherlands as new GCTF co-chair. Morocco and the Netherlands were previously co-chairs together of the Forum’s Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group.
”Assuming this responsibility shows the clear, determined and constructive involvement of Morocco in the fight against terrorism,” said Morocco’s Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Nasser Bourita on the occasion. The GCTF, of which both Morocco and the US were founding members, was established with the mission of supporting the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and to provide a venue for counterterrorism officials and practitioners to meet with their counterparts from around the world to share best practices and build capacity.
African Lion and the GCTF are just two of the many ways the US and Morocco coordinate on security measures. Designated as a “major non-NATO ally,” Morocco was the first Maghreb country to be a member of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. 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 in the region. Indeed in a joint statement issued after the third US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue held last year, the two countries expressed their commitment to security cooperation, with Secretary Kerry noting US “appreciation for Moroccos’ leadership in countering violent extremism.”
“Morocco’s role at the Global Counterterrorism Forum and the continuation of African Lion confirm what the US has known since 1777, when Morocco became the first country to recognize the US’s independence: Morocco is a staunch ally of the US and a leader on issues of security,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel.
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