NIGER (OBSERVATORY) – Around 1,500 African, American and European troops began exercises in western and northern Niger on Wednesday to conduct training in countering terrorist threats in these areas, diplomatic and military sources said.
“The Flintlock 2018 exercise aims to strengthen the capacity of countries in the Sahel to address violent extremist organizations,” the US embassy in Niger said.
The simulations, which will last until April 20, will allow participating countries to “protect their borders,” the statement said.
“The new” Flintlock 2018 “is that we have directed the training towards the real threats” on the “Big Coast,” said Mark Hicks, commander of special operations at the African Command, AFRICOM, at a press conference last week.
This year, AFRICOM is participating in air and ground exercises, eight African countries and twelve Western countries.
The Flintlock maneuvers are held in three Nigerian districts of Tilabiri and Tahwa (west), near Mali, and in Agadez in the north, near Libya, Algeria and Mali. In turn, “training centers” have opened in Burkina Faso, which has seen a large number of terrorist attacks, and in Senegal, which has been excluded so far, the statement said.
On October 4, 2017, four US soldiers and four Nigerian soldiers were killed in a reservoir in the Tilabiri district.
Even if the United States distanced itself from the Sahel group, which is close to France, the force being formed appears to be the main beneficiary of the exercises. All five member countries (Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso) are participating in the Flintlock maneuver.
Nigeria and Cameroon, which have established with Niger and Chad another regional force to tackle the Boko Haram Islamic group in the Lake Chad basin, are also taking part.
General Mark Hicks said the aim was to “enable the G5” with its modest armies “to take on the threats in a more effective and direct manner.” “An end to the war in Iraq and Syria … Africa remains one of those fertile lands” to house fighters.
The United States has promised the $ 5 million package in the form of bilateral assistance to each country.