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Special ops flock to Flintlock

08th March 2017 - 13:35 by Andrew White in London

Special ops flock to Flintlock

The international special operations community has once again amassed across West Africa as part of Exercise Flintlock, designed to further develop the capabilities of indigenous special mission units across the continent.

Conducted between 27 February and 16 March the annual training package continues to extend its influence across the region with seven countries hosting various serials. Directing staff were supplied by special operations forces (SOF) components from across NATO and non-NATO entity partners.

Hosts this year include Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia with additional participants including Algeria, Cape Verde, Nigeria and Senegal.

Instruction is provided by short term training teams (STTTs) drawn from the Australian, Canadian, French, German, Italian and Norwegian Special Operations Commands; Austria's Jagdkommando; Belgium's Special Forces Group; Netherlands' KCT; Spain's Joint Special Operations Command; UK Special Forces; and the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

Organised by the US Africa Special Operations Command the three-week long exercise will 'strengthen the ability of key partner nations in the region to protect their borders and provide security for their people,' a spokesperson explained.

'Additionally, the exercise bolsters partnerships between African, European and North American special operations forces increasing their ability to work together in response to future crises,' it was added.

Such sentiment was reinforced by USSOCOM's forward North and West Africa commander as well as exercise director, Col Kelly Smith, who urged how this year's event would test and improve the indigenous capabilities across a 'robust and diverse' range of training serials across air, land and maritime environments.

One SOF operator associated with the exercise explained to Shephard how training iterations would focus on small unit tactics, techniques and procedures enabling indigenous units to conduct basic counter-terror (CT) and counter-insurgency (COIN) operations.

This comprises close quarter battle; military operations in urban terrain; as well as hostage rescue operations; and maritime CT serials including interdiction operations and visit, board, search and seizure missions.

Furthermore, Flintlock is devised to enhance interoperability between 'western' participants as well as African partners in line with growing operational requirements which see multi-national force elements conducting train, advise and assist campaigns globally, as illustrated with ongoing operations in Syria and Iraq against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS).

Finally, SOF sources explained how Flintlock would also provide medical and humanitarian assistance to deprived areas of western Africa as NATO and NNE partners continue to seek winning over the 'hearts and minds' of local populations at risk of radicalisation from insurgent groups.

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