AFRICOM: Exercises in 2013

Every year, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) organizes several bilateral and multilateral exercises within its area of responsibility, which spans the African continent (with the exception of Egypt,) its island countries and adjacent waters. These exercises range from simulated peacekeeping operations to maritime security. Below is a roundup of a number of these exercises U.S. Africa Command carried out in 2013.


AFRICOM has one prominent operation on the African continent, where U.S. military personnel is embedded as trainers with African militaries.  The mission is to strengthen a multi-lateral partnership (South Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo) in their struggle against the Lord Resistance Army. 

  • U.S. Military Support to African-Led Counter-L.R.A. Operations. According to the White House, there are about 120 special operations soldiers “in the LRA-affected areas, including the Republic of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic.” The operation has been ongoing since 2011. The American troops do not have a mandate that allows direct engagement with LRA fighters, and are to serve principally as educational assistance. 

Multilateral exercises:

The exercises listed below were conducted between the United States and multiple partner nations. Both the host nation’s national military and other national militaries from the region participate. Most of these exercises focused on capacity building, with training sponsored by AFRICOM.

  • Cutlass Express.  This at-sea exercise occurred from November 11th to November 18th and focused on building maritime security capacity in partner nations. Cutlass Express took place at four different naval hubs (Mombasa, Kenya; Djibouti, Djibouti; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Port Victoria, Seychelles) and involved ten East African partner states. The objective was to “increase regional cooperation, Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)/ information sharing, and improve communications and interoperability among participating forces in order to counter piracy and maritime threats.” 
  • Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa Basic Sea Survival.  In November, this week long course focused on training Kenyan security personnel working in regional prisons on increased maritime security due to the high number of prisons on Kenya’s coast.   
  • African Deployment Partnership Station (ADAPT).  This Theater Logistic Engagement activity is funded through the State Department and “helps build deployment capacities of African partners who conduct peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, or humanitarian relief operations in Africa.” This year, the U.S. reported training in Benin in September, and in Togo in June and Malawi in January under ADAPT.
  • Western Accord.  This two-week exercise targeted countries from the Economic Community of West African States, and involved 200 security personnel from approximately 13 countries. The focus of Western Accord was building “mission command capability to support regional peace keeping operations.” This was a two-part exercise, with the first part focusing on academics, and the second part focusing on command and control. The later took place in late June.
  • African Endeavor.  This 10-day long communications exercise took place in Lusaka, Zambia from August 6th – August 15th.  The training involving thirty-eight African nations focused on information sharing and interoperability between participating countries. The exercise has been held annually since 2006.
  • Flintlock.  This three-week long capacity building exercise took place in Mauritania between February 20th and March 9th and focused on marksmanship and human rights training among 14 partner nations. Since 2006, this annual exercise has brought together “African, Western, and U.S. counterterrorism forces” with the aim to “develop the capacity and collaboration among African security forces to protect civilian populations.”
  • Sahara Express 2013 (SE-13).  This five-day training program started on March 7th and involved government and non-governmental “major stakeholders in maritime security.”  The goal is to “improve maritime safety and security in West Africa.” Fourteen African nations participated.
  • Obangame Express.  This weeklong maritime capacity exercise took place February 22nd – February 28th, and focused on piracy and illicit activities in the Gulf of Guinea. Obangame Express involved African, European, and Atlantic nations. African participants came from Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Togo. Training took place at-sea in the Gulf of Guinea.
  • Central Accord.  This 10-day long training involved Central African governments such as Cameroonian, Burundi, Gabonese Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, and São Tomé e Príncipe and took place February 27th – March 1st. The training aimed to “promote regional cooperation while increasing aerial resupply and medical treatment capacity,” and took place in in Cameroon.

Bilateral exercises:

The exercises listed below were conducted between the United States and individual partner nations, usually in conjunction with the national military of the host state.  Most of these exercises focused on capacity building, with training sponsored by AFRICOM. 

  • Tactical Riverine Operations Course.  This exercise took place July 13th – September 6th in the Gulf of Guinea. Its aim was to “improve Nigerian coastal and riverine security,” and it focused on the capacity of the Nigerian Navy to operate in shallow water.
  • Lion Rouge.  This two-week long course took place from September 10th – 27th and trained 225 officers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Armed Forces (FARDC).  Training focused on professionalism and civil-military operations.
  • Shared Accord.  This two-week long program took place from July 24th – August 7th, and is the principal bilateral exercise between the South African Defense Force and the United States. Shared Accord is one of the largest exercises to take place in Africa every year, involving over 4,000 South African troops and 700 U.S. service members.
  • African Lion.   This is an annual, bilateral exercise with Morocco took place in early April and focused on building the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces’ capabilities, including command post management and live-fire maneuvering.
  • Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa.  This ten-week long training exercise was designed as a pre-deployment exercise for “Burundi National Defense Force soldiers to prepare them for [peacekeeping] assignments in Somalia.” Launched in July, it concluded on September 27th. To learn more about U.S. training of Burundian armed forces, read our blog post. 

AFRICOM engaged in a wide variety of training and capacity building exercises with African partner nations in 2013 and its presence is growing.  To learn more about AFRICOM, read our blog on AFRICOM’s commander General Rodriguez’ notable policy statements, AFRICOM’s budget, and the expansion of AFRICOM’s activity on the continent.

This post is co-authored by Program Associate Natalie Chwalisz and Transparency and Accountability intern Kyle Dallman.


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