Operation Flintlock is the annual AFRICOM showpiece Special Operations exercise. This African-led, military and law enforcement exercise has been conducted since 2005. Flintlock is designed to foster greater cooperation, and counter violent extremist activity inside the partner nations’ borders.

Special Operations Command Africa commander, Air Force Brigadier General Dagvin Anderson, said: “Flintlock is an example of how the international community can face complex challenges both in the Sahel and across Africa. No country can defeat these threats alone and no country has every answer. Only by addressing instability, the root of terrorism, as an international problem by building multi-national partnerships can we create a prosperous future.” 

African nations that are taking an active role in this year’s exercise include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo. Other allied partners include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Flintlock 2020 is currently taking place in Mauritania as well as in Senegal. The exercise is designed to strengthen the ability of key partner nations in the region to counter violent extremist organizations, protect their borders, and better provide security for their people. But its most positive aspect is building relationships and fostering the concept of mutual support between the nations. That is and always has been a hallmark of classic Special Operations team building.

Special operators are conducting small-unit tactics exercises including live-fire ranges, mounted and dismounted movements, reconnaissance, close-quarters battle drills, border patrol operations, post-blast investigations, community key leader engagement, investigative interviews, intelligence sharing, and hostage rescue. 

One key area that the nations are stressing in 2020 is the need for better, and more timely intelligence, especially in the vast sub-Saharan Sahel region. Intelligence, and more importantly, shared intelligence between nations will create a better security situation for all involved. 

Army General Stephen Townsend, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander gave a statement to the media on the importance of building closer relationships: “Strategic threats will emanate from Africa that will pose not only regional challenges to U.S. interests but global ones as well. These threats include malign actors with regional and global reach as well as terrorist networks with large aspirations. No single nation can combat these threats alone,” he said. “With over 1,600 troops from over 30 nations participating, Flintlock builds capabilities, improves readiness and enables an international approach to deal with these common challenges.”

With the French building a coalition among the G5 nations to combat extremism in the Sahel, the other partner nations in Africa are trying to build a larger network of working together for common goals. 

Flintlock will continue until February 28, but its effects will provide the foundation for better regional security and cooperation for years to come.