A senior US general has warned of what he claimed as “wildfire of terrorism” sweeping across Africa at the conclusion of massive US-led war games involving American, African and European military forces.
“I am concerned about the security situation across a band of Africa," from the Sahel region in the west to the Horn of Africa, said the commander of US Africa Command Gen. Stephen Townsend during a Friday briefing cited in an AP report on Saturday, pointing to “deadly attacks” by al-Qaeda- and Daesh-linked militants as well as the Somalia-based al-Shabab group.
“All of them are on the march,” he insisted as he painted a dark picture of threats throughout Africa while praising accomplishments in the joint war games dubbed African Lion after nearly two weeks of drills stretching across the North African kingdom of Morocco, a major US ally, with smaller parts held in Tunisia and West African country of Senegal.
African neighbors are helping governments deal with the threat, Townsend further stated, adding that “all of that does not seem to be sufficient enough to stop what I call ... (the) wildfire of terrorism that’s sweeping that region.”
African Lion saw more than 7,000 troops from seven countries, along with forces affiliated with the US-led NATO military alliance, carry out air, land and sea maneuvers together, according to the report, noting that the annual war games were not held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has helped our interoperability, our joint capabilities, and provided readiness and a good opportunity to build cohesion across the forces,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling, commander of the US Army’s Southern European Task Force Africa as quoted in the report, speaking in the Moroccan desert town nof Tan-Tan.
There was a glitch at the beginning of the war games, with Spain withdrawing from the drills citing budgetary reasons. Press reports, however, attributed the move to Spain’s poor relations with Morocco, a former colony and key partner.
The two countries have been at loggerheads since Spain took in the leader of the Polisario Front independence movement — Morocco’s top adversary — for COVID-19 treatment in a Spanish hospital earlier this year. The Polisario is fighting for independence for the Western Sahara, a vast region that Morocco claims as its own.
During the war games, Morocco held some airborne operations near the Western Sahara and not far from Polisario refugee camps in Tindouf, in neighboring Algeria.
“Those activities have been perfectly conducted and agreed upon between the two militaries,” Moroccan Brigadier Gen. Mohammed Jamil claimed as quoted in the report.
The participating countries in African Lion were the US, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Italy, The Netherlands and Britain. Observers also attended from other US-backed countries, including Egypt, Qatar, Niger and Mali.