The “African Lion 2021” maneuvers were launched in Morocco on Monday, covering the Sahara region, with the participation of 9 countries representing 3 continents.
The Sahara region is disputed between Rabat and the “Polisario” since Spain ended its presence in it in 1975.
The official Moroccan News Agency said that the joint Moroccan-American exercises “African Lion 2021” started on Monday and will continue until June 18.
She added that the exercises are taking place in the regions of Agadir, Tantan, Tafraout, Tifnit, Benguerir and Quneitra, in addition to the Mahbas region.
It reported that thousands of multinational armies and a large number of land, air and sea equipment are participating in the 17th edition of the exercises.
In addition to Morocco and the United States, Britain, Brazil, Canada, Tunisia, Senegal, the Netherlands and Italy will participate in the exercises, according to the Moroccan army in a statement on Saturday.
It also participates in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and military observers from about 30 countries representing the continents of Africa, Europe and America.
The Moroccan army said that this exercise “aims at strengthening the maneuvering capabilities of the participating units and enhancing interoperability in the planning and implementation of joint operations.”
It also aims to master tactics, techniques and procedures, develop cyber defense skills, and train the air component to conduct combat operations, support and refueling from the air.
In 2007, the first version of the “African Lion” maneuvers was launched between Morocco and the United States, in which European and African countries participated. It is conducted annually, but sometimes more than one version is held in one year.
For the first time, part of the maneuvers are taking place in the Sahara region since Washington recognized on December 10 Morocco’s sovereignty over the region and announced its intention to open a US consulate there.
Rabat proposes expanded autonomy in the region under its sovereignty, while the “Polisario” calls for a referendum for self-determination, a proposal supported by Algeria, which hosts refugees from the region.