Operation Flintlock is an exercise held and led by an African host nation every year since 2005. It incorporates several actors in the security spectrum, such as military, law enforcement, justice, government, and civil society. Participants are from mainly North and West Africa Special Operations Forces (SOF), with participation by several western SOF as trainers. Flintlock is the foremost and biggest annual SOF exercise hosted by Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Hicks, the commander for Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), stated the following in a teleconference:
(T)he training cadre and the training audience participate in interoperability training, which provides real capability to all the participants, including the Western SOF partners who provide training. It’s worth noting that this exercise provides readiness to the U.S. and Western SOF militaries, interoperability training, and actual readiness to my own headquarters, for whom this is a major activity.”
The training is intended to strengthen security intuitions, increase and improve intelligence sharing, and develop interoperability among the partner nations of the G5 Sahel and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
A total of 34 countries will participate in this year’s Flintlock exercise. Fifteen African nations and 19 Western nations are participating, while Japan and Saudi Arabia will fulfill observer roles. Most of the training will consist of tactical training or command and control functions. Over 2,000 people will participate in the host nation of Burkina Faso, with a key outstation in Mauritania. The training started officially on February 18th and will continue until March 1st.
General Hicks specified: “Our training audience is primarily the G5 Sahel and Multinational Joint Task Force troop-contributing agents, and for the joint headquarters, we’re trying to focus on those individuals who will actually become watchstanders in G5 Sahel headquarters or MNJTF headquarters operations.”
Interestingly, the Flintlock exercise started as a Western SOF exercise decades ago, where mainly U.S., U.K., French and Canadian SOF trained Western SOF units in Europe. With European SOF matured and well-established, the training was brought to Africa to build SOF capacity. This year, for the first time, some of the tactical unit training will be conducted by Nigerian and Moroccan SOF trainers.
Participating African nations include: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
Western partners include: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.