NIAMEY, Niger, February 24, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Flintlock, the annual African-led military exercise for interoperability in security, counterterrorism and humanitarian aid, officially kicked off Feb. 19, 2014, with an opening ceremony celebrating the spirit of cooperation.
The exercise, which beyond U.S. participation includes Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, France, Germany, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, United Kingdom, and the host nation of Niger, focuses on building partner capacity to help strengthen stability across Africa. This year, there are 18 different African and Western country participants.
For the next three weeks, more than a 1,000 different soldiers from across these countries will practice military drills such as airdrops of personnel or equipment, live fire ranges, and delivering aid to remote areas with limited medical care.
While not focused on any particular operation or security situation, Flintlock 2014 focuses on the development of the mutual security capacity while strengthening bonds among exercise participants, according to officials.
“Your presence reflects your interests in our regional partnerships,” said Nigerian Col. Mahamane Laminou Sani, the Flintlock country coordinator. “By sharing their experiences, expertise, and camaraderie we share our interests in promoting stability in the region.”
Some of the major tactical components of Flintlock 2014 include small-unit combined training activities against counter-terrorism, along with humanitarian relief operations providing basic medical, dental, and veterinary access for select communities in Niger.
The host nation led the development of the exercises’ training objectives to help build relationships between participating nations.
U.S. leadership attended the ceremony along with their counterparts and they said they agree that security is necessary for growth and stability. Special Operations Command Africa Commanding General Brig. Gen. James Linder joined African nation partners for opening ceremony activities.
During the ceremony the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Trans Sahel Commander Col. Kenneth Sipperly, who is the Flintlock 2014 exercise coordinator, said, “Although Flintlock is considered an exercise, it is really an extension of ongoing training, engagement, and operations that help prepare our close Africa partners in the fight against extremism and the enemies that threaten peace, stability, and regional security.”
“Working together to guard against the effects of extremism will be realized by the future generations of all our countries,” he said.
The Nigerian Chief of Staff M. Karidio Mahamadou agreed, adding that, “This exercise is occurring at a time when our nations are faced with multiple obstacles within our region which requires strong resolve to confront extremism.”
Flintlock exercises have been conducted across north and western Africa since 2005 to improve the security capacity of regional military forces.
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