The US-led campaign holding in Niger aims at boosting the fight against violent extremism.
Troops from eight African and 12 Western nations, including the United States, on April 9, 2018 began a nine-day military exercise holding in Niger for the most part, and also in Burkina Faso and Senegal for some training units.
According to a statement from the US Embassy in Burkina Faso, participating African countries in Flintlock 2018 include Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. While some of the Western partners are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and America.
Described as “the largest annual exercise of special operations forces organized by the United States Command for Africa,” Flintlock has since 2005 strengthened key partner country forces across North and West Africa, as well as Western Special Operations Forces,” the statement explained.
The objective is to “build the capacity of key partner countries in the region to combat violent extremist organizations, protect their borders and ensure the safety and security of their populations.” It also “strengthens partnerships between special operations forces and law enforcement agencies in African and Western countries.”
Africa’s Sahel region faces many complex and interconnected challenges such as food and environmental concerns, political instability, fragile economies and insecurity. In 2012, 18 million people were at risk of famine following a major food crisis. The region has been characterized by strong climatic variations and irregular rainfalls, posing the biggest obstacles to food security and poverty reduction.
Between 1970 and 1993, the Sahel recorded 20 years of severe drought, with over 80 per cent of the soil degraded. The Mali military coup of March 2012 brought an abrupt halt to 20 years of stable democracy, followed by the occupation of parts of the territory by terrorists.