The United States military has concluded its annual training exercise, Flintlock, in response to the spreading extremist violence in West Africa’s Sahel region. The exercise aims to train soldiers from several African countries in counter-insurgency tactics. With 1,300 military personnel from 29 countries participating, the training took place in Ghana and Ivory Coast, where jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group is on the rise.
As extremist activity spreads from inland Sahel to coastal states like Ghana, concerns about potential links between unidentified armed groups and jihadis have increased. Amid growing anti-French sentiment, Mali and Burkina Faso have turned to Russia for military support, and Mali has also engaged the Wagner Group, a private mercenary organization. The US aims to help African countries combat the extremist threat before it expands further across the region.
For the first time in Flintlock, maritime training has been introduced to address the rising threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Ghanaian military officials are concerned that jihadis may collaborate with pirates, which would significantly impact the coastal countries’ economic activity. In response, Ghana is investing in security measures along its border, purchasing armored personnel carriers and other equipment, and participating in the Accra Initiative to combat the spread of extremism in the Sahel. Regional experts argue that a multi-pronged approach, focused on building community resilience and addressing issues like poverty, inflation, and job shortages, is necessary to prevent militant infiltration.
Edit: We’ve updated the content with a new source after finding a more in-depth analysis.