The African Lion, U.S. Africa Command’s premier joint annual exercise in Africa, kicked off Monday in Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal for its 17th iteration. With more than 7,000 participants from nine nations and NATO, African Lion is U.S. Africa Command’s largest exercise. The training is focused on enhancing readiness for U.S. and partner nation forces, said a statement by the U.S. Africa Command. “African Lion 2021 is U.S. Africa Command’s premier, joint and multi-national annual exercise. African Lion is an excellent example of the United States’ long-term commitment to Africa and recognition of Africa’s strategic importance to the United States,” said U.S. Africa Command commander, U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, quoted in the statement. African Lion 21 is a multi-domain, multi-component, and multi-national exercise, which will employ a full array of mission capabilities with the goal to strengthen interoperability among partner nations and enhance the ability to operate in the African theater of operations, according to the same source. “This exercise is all about readiness. Readiness of our partners, and readiness of our forces. It brings together various ideas, experiences, and capabilities–ultimately making us stronger partners and a more capable multi-national force,” said Townsend. African Lion activities are spread across Morocco, from Kenitra Air Base in the north to Tan Tan and the Grier Labouihi training complex further south. Activities are also occurring in Senegal and Tunisia. An air training exercise, coordinated by the U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa, will feature U.S. and Moroccan air maneuvers including bombers, fighters and aerial refueling. Naval maneuvers include a naval gunfire exercise and multiple sea-based maneuvers involving U.S. and Moroccan navies and crisis response capabilities, said the statement, adding that U.S. Air Force Airmen from the Utah Air National Guard will conduct a humanitarian civic assistance event in Morocco. Utah is partnered with Morocco as part of U.S. Africa Command’s State Partnership Program. There are 15 African nations in the State Partnership Program. “African Lion is key in building and strengthening partnerships in the region,” said Townsend. “It provides an opportunity for mutual learning between the U.S. and our African partners and benefits participants by strengthening interoperability and collective efforts towards enhancing security and stability throughout the region,” he added. In Senegal, U.S. and Senegalese militaries will demonstrate their combined capability to rapidly deploy and integrate in response to a crisis, while in Tunisia, U.S. and Tunisian Armed Forces will conduct command post exercises and small unit tactical training. The importance of training and ability to learn how to operate in a COVID-19 environment made African Lion 21 a priority. “COVID-19 has not changed our focus on engaging with our Africa partners. Due to last year’s cancellation of African Lion, we had a head start in planning this year’s exercise,” said Townsend. “We understand how important this training is to our forces and our partners and how to better operate in a degraded COVID environment. We will ensure successful training while taking necessary COVID-19 precautionary measures in order to do so,” he added. The U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, assumed lead responsibility of exercise African Lion in 2019 from the U.S. Marine Corps, the statement concluded.
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