The United States’ annual anti-terrorism training program for African troops began on Sunday (20/2) in Ivory Coast. The training comes as Islamist fighters control large swathes of territory and coups are increasing on the continent and French troop numbers are starting to dwindle.
The training programme, dubbed Flintlock, will see more than 400 soldiers from all over West Africa strengthen the skills of the troops. Some of these troops are frequently targeted by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Troops that did not participate included troops from Guinea and two countries worst-affected by Islamist violence, Mali and Burkina Faso. The military junta has seized power in the three countries since 2020, raising fears of a return to post-colonial reputation in West Africa, dubbed the “coup belt,” an area where coups frequently occur.
Coordination between different armies fighting the same enemy was a major part of this year ‘s training .
“Flintlock’s primary focus is information sharing. If we can’t communicate, we can’t work together,” Admiral Jamie Sands, Commander of US Special Operations Command in Africa, said at the opening ceremony.
France has been leading the war against the militants since 2013, but a growing number of parties oppose its intervention efforts. Last week, France said it would leave Mali, and move to Niger.
Diplomats fear the exit of 2,400 French troops from Mali – the epicenter of the violence – could destabilize the region even further. [vm/lt]