The Armies of Morocco and the US gave the kick-off to the ‘African Lion 22’ maneuvers yesterday in the southern town of Agadir , some exercises -the largest on the African continent- that serve, highlighted the US commander at the inauguration, to guarantee security and stability in Africa and also in Europe.
Senior officials from the armies of Morocco, the US and the thirteen participating countries yesterday attended the opening ceremony of these annual maneuvers, the bulk of which is held in Morocco , but which will also take place at the headquarters of the General Staff of the Southern Zone of Morocco. this edition in Senegal, Ghana and Tunisia.
Absence from Spain for the second year
Nearly 7,500 troops from thirteen countries such as France, Italy, Holland, Brazil or the United Kingdom will participate in these maneuvers until June 30, which Spain does not attend this year, as happened in the previous edition, coinciding with the crisis between Morocco and the European country, settled last March after the Spanish support for the proposal for Moroccan autonomy in Western Sahara .
US Major General Andrew Rohling, US Army Deputy Commander for Europe and Africa , referred at the opening ceremony to the importance of the exercises to consolidate military cooperation to guarantee regional security and stability. “(These exercises) constitute an important piece for the security and stability of the area. Aware of the close link between the security challenges between Africa and Europe, we want to bring together the military of both continents ,” said General of division American in his intervention under a huge military tent.
On the Moroccan side, General Belkhir Farouk, inspector general of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR) and commander of the Southern Zone, insisted on the importance of these maneuvers to promote cooperation between the participating countries in the face of the current challenges marked by the degradation of the security and economic situation in various parts of the world.
“The security challenges push us to draw lessons from the different situations and combine approaches in terms of the usefulness of joint exercises,” said the general, who emphasized the values of peace and security shared by Morocco and the United States. To Efe, the coordination officer between the two armies, Khaled Salhi, indicated that these maneuvers aim to improve the combat capabilities of the participating armies and represent an “important opportunity” to train on war tactics “with a high level of efficiency.”
Maneuvers near Western Sahara
In Morocco, the exercises will be carried out in the training areas in Kenitra (center) and in the south of the country in Agadir, Tan Tan, Tarudant and in Greir Labouhi, an area that borders Western Sahara and in which they are organized for the second time these exercises.
The presence of US soldiers in this area in the previous edition was interpreted by several observers as support for Morocco , since it was included for the first time a few months after the announcement, in December 2020, of former US President Donald Trump recognizing the sovereignty Moroccan on the former Spanish colony.
The selection of that area is also loaded with symbolism as it is close to the border with Algeria , a country that broke off its diplomatic relations with Rabat in August 2021, a crisis that was followed by a rise in military spending in both countries (Morocco increased by 6% spending on defense in 2022, which represents 4% of the country’s GDP , compared to Algeria , which allocates 6% of its GDP).
The maneuvers take place in a context marked by the return of hostilities between Morocco and the Polisario Front, after the president of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Ibrahim Ghali, declared in November 2020 that the agreement had broken the halt fire (in force for more than three decades). The ‘African Lion’ maneuvers constitute, according to experts, a show of strength in military cooperation between the United States and Morocco, a country that has approved in recent years a roadmap to modernize its army equipment , with France and the United States. United as main suppliers.
The United States and Morocco signed a ten-year military cooperation agreement in October 2020 and the Maghreb country also participates annually in more than 100 cooperation programs with the US army. The current edition of ‘African Lion 22’ will include inter-army maneuvers in different land, air, and sea operations, along with other NRBC (nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical) risk decontamination operations.