The United States says it has decided to cancel an annual military exercise held in partnership with African nations, out of concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement was made Monday by the U.S. Africa Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany. AFRICOM said the decision was taken in careful consideration and coordination with African partner nations.
This year’s exercise was set to begin on March 23 and run through April 4. Partner nations included Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal, with Spain included in the original plans.
Nearly 5,000 personnel also were to come from Egypt and Mauritania, seven European nations alongside Spain, including some hit hard by the virus, and Canada and Australia. Morocco was set to host a medical readiness exercise, with a large-scale live-fire exercise in addition to air, maritime and forward command post training exercises. It was to be the largest African Lion exercise held by AFRICOM to date.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to cancel the exercise was made based on international travel restrictions associated with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and to minimize the risk of exposure to U.S. and partner nation service members,” the statement said.
AFRICOM said last week that African Lion would be scaled back to protect against COVID-19, but continued to evaluate the situation.
“While African Lion 2020 has been canceled, planning continues for 2021,” said AFRICOM. “U.S. Africa Command continues to work with international allies and African partners to enhance stability and security on the continent.”
Image: AFRICOM file