US and Moroccan soldiers have started the first phase of African Lion 2015, an annual joint military exercise, in Agadir, Morocco.
Participants from the US, Morocco, Germany, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal and the UK completed an intelligence-capacity building workshop and are now set to create a combined joint task force (CJTF) to prepare for a simulated international crisis.
The capacity building workshop, task force and simulated crisis aim to strengthen cooperation and operational proficiency among the participants, helping them prepare for potential crises in the region.
In addition, the workshop and CJTF are expected to prepare them for the main phase of the exercise, which is scheduled to take place in Morocco in May, and will feature 2,500 personnel from the first phase, as well as from the Netherlands and Belgium.
Specifically, the CJTF will take the soldiers through a scenario that focuses on humanitarian aid, disaster relief and rapid and stable deployment operations.
CJTF commander major general Richard Simcock said: "The foundation of how our international community responds to a crisis in any region will be established during theatre security cooperation exercises such as African Lion.
"This exercise allows the US, allies and partner nations to strengthen our relationships with our Moroccan hosts and improve how we will work together in the future."
Moroccan American Center executive director Jordan Paul said: "Morocco has been a staunch ally of the US since 1777 and the US recognises Morocco as a critical partner in a troubled region.
"Hosting African Lion is an integral part of Morocco's commitment to cooperation on regional security efforts with the US, the European Union and its neighbours in the Maghreb, Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa."
The second phase of African Lion 15 will also include Majestic Eagle, a joint Moroccan-US Air Force exercise that will focus on aerial refuelling and air support training missions.
Claimed to be the largest annual US military exercise on the continent, African Lion aims to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of tactics, techniques and procedures.