US, Moroccan generals launch planning for African Lion 21
Gen. Belkhir El Farouk, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces Southern Zone commander, walks with Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Rohling, the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force commanding general and U.S. Army Europe-Africa deputy commanding general, during Rohling’s visit to the Royal Moroccan Southern Forces Zone headquarters in Agadir, Morocco, Nov. 12, 2020. The leaders met to discuss plans for the African Lion 21 exercise, COVID-19 challenges on military readiness, and regional security issues. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo by Royal Moroccan Armed Forces) VIEW ORIGINAL

AGADIR, Morocco -- Leaders from Moroccan and U.S. armies met Nov. 12 to discuss plans for conducting next year's African Lion, the largest military training exercise on the continent, amidst the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling, the U.S. Army Europe – Africa deputy commanding general, met with Moroccan Gen. Belkhir El Farouk, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces Southern Zone commander. Both agreed that the African Lion exercise, scheduled for June, represents a chance to show the continued strong strategic partnership between the United States and Morocco, even as both countries face the COVID-19.

"It was a pleasure meeting General Farouk in person for the first time," Rohling said. "Judging by the caliber of his character and understanding of the strategic environment, I can only imagine how great an experience it will be for U.S. service members to train alongside Moroccan military professionals in African Lion 21."

Farouk welcomed Rohling and took him on a visit to the main facilities of the Southern Zone Headquarters. The Moroccan host expressed his willingness to work closely with Rohling to ensure the successful completion of exercise African Lion 21.

Plans for African Lion 21 build on African Lion 20, which was curtailed last spring during the new coronavirus outbreak.

"We clearly understand the importance of protecting our forces: U.S., Moroccan, and others anticipated to participate, from the pandemic," Rohling said. "Our staffs are carefully and deliberately planning African Lion 21 with this in mind."

Farouk and Rohling also discussed regional defense and security topics, force readiness issues and COVID-19 challenges.

"We have a number of shared mutual challenges," Rohling said. "I'm confident that we will continue to build upon our already very strong relationship to meet these challenges."