PREMIUM: French elite forces train African partners in Ivory Coast
Western African countries are threatened by jihadist terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State — both of which operate in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso — as well as Boko Haram in Chad, Niger, Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
As an ex-colonial power with interests in the region, France has decided to help African countries against the jihadist threat by establishing a training centre in Jacqueville near Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The second phase of the Academy Internationale de Lutte Contre le Terrorisme (AILCT) is due to open in 2022 as the largest facility of its kind in Africa for SOF training without environmental constraints.
A total of €18 million (about $21.6 million) was invested in the first phase of AILCT and €40 million is earmarked for the next phase, in which other international partners will join France and the Ivory Coast.
SOC works closely with US Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA), which is funding a $1.5 million helicopter hangar for two Mi-8/17s and will organise elements of its multinational all-domain Exercise Flintlock there in 2022.
Other features of the second phase include an unpaved 1,500m runway to accommodate C-130s, a lagoon for training naval special forces, and an aircraft counter-hijack training area.
AILCT was launched in 2018 and it was inaugurated in December 2019. The academy ‘aims to develop the military and interministerial capacities of the countries of the G5 Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea in the area of counter-terrorism’, Maj Gen Eric Vidaud, head of French Special Forces Command (COS), noted on 13 January 2021 in testimony to the National Defence and Armed Forces Committee of the French Parliament.
Experts from COS, plus French police elite tactical response units RAID and GIGN, drew up the plans for the expanded facility and are leading the project team in the Ivory Coast.
The academy already includes an adjustable close quarters battle range with moving walls, plus a sniper tower in front of a firing range that can also be used for air-to ground fire (from snipers inside helicopters).
Another notable feature in AILCT is a mock-up of a hotel, which reflects the vulnerability of tourist facilities to terrorist attack in Africa. The roof allows rope insertions and extraction by helicopter.
A jihadist shelter area and a typical ‘African village’ have also been built, and AILCT also includes a 2.2km road loop with firing ranges to train VIP close protection teams.