US Military Conducts Counterterrorism Drills In Africa Amid Growing Russian And Chinese Influence

The U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) is conducting “Flintlock,” its premier annual counterterrorism training event in Africa, amid growing concerns about the spread of violent extremism and increasing Russian and Chinese influence on the continent.

Special ops teams from AFRICOM, along with NATO allies, are training alongside soldiers from countries including Ghana, Ivory Coast, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Libya, and Morocco. The exercises, now in their 20th year, aim to enhance the capabilities of African forces to defend themselves and combat terrorism in the Sahel region, which stretches across northern Africa and is considered the epicenter of the global fight against ISIS and al Qaeda franchises.

Lt. Gen. John Brennan, the deputy AFRICOM commander, emphasized that Flintlock is not only about military training but also about sharing democratic values and instilling the rule of law. However, the U.S. faces challenges as 11 coups have occurred in the Sahel over the past decade, with at least 14 leaders of those coups having been trained at Flintlock.

The U.S. is also grappling with declining influence in Africa as China offers trade agreements and Russia provides military aid with few strings attached. The U.S. has been ordered to leave Niger, a key front line in the fight against terrorism, following a coup last year, and Russia has quickly stepped in to fill the power vacuum.

Despite these challenges, Brennan stressed that the U.S. carries the weight of the entire NATO alliance and must expand its relationships with African partners to help make the continent prosperous, free, and a partner of choice. With Flintlock, the U.S. promises long-term investment in Africa, but it faces stiff competition from malign actors on a crowded battlefield.