Plans underway for Africa's biggest military exercise in face of COVID-19
By Cain ClaxtonJanuary 28, 2021
AGADIR, Morocco - Militaries from U.S. and Morocco met here Jan. 20-28 to layout plans for the 17th episode of African Lion, scheduled for June.Military planners surveyed training areas and converged training and readiness goals to scale African Lion exercise, while ensuring safeguards against COVID-19."COVID-19 presents new challenges for us as exercise planners, but we are committed to ensuring we have the best fighting force, best partners, and everything we need for strategic access and readiness," said Col. Robert Perry, director of G7 Training and Exercises for U.S. Southern European Task Force, Africa. Perry led the U.S. planning team on the ground here, while hundreds of other military experts participated virtually.Established in 2002 between U.S. Marines and Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, African Lion has a long history of bringing together U.S., Moroccan and other Partners and Allies to build interoperability, strengthen relationships, and increase readiness for contingencies on the African continent. U.S. Africa Command increased its participation in the exercise in 2019 with the involvement of SETAF-Africa, from Vicenza, Italy."SETAF-Africa provides AFRICOM a dedicated and ready joint task force capability," said Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson. "We are going to stress and test that capability in African Lion 21."As AFRICOM's largest exercise, involving thousands of troops from all U.S services including guard and reserve elements, African Lion demonstrates U.S. commitment to partners in Africa."What we do in Africa matters," Jackson said. "Not only are we building tactical unit readiness by deploying forces thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, and rehearsing sophisticated joint, all-domain operations, we are also improving on the strong foundations of friendship between Morocco and the U.S. with an ever-increasing coalition of partners and Allies."Plans for African Lion 21 involve nine nations as exercise participants, with dozens of others as observers. Scheduled activities span three continents and six countries.The exercise scenario pits this multinational coalition against a state-sponsored and supported paramilitary force with near-peer capabilities. Linked to U.S. European Command's Defender series exercise, African Lion exercise is designed to counter malign activity in North Africa and Southern Europe and increase interoperability between U.S., African, and international partners to defend the theater from adversary military aggression.