US special operators train with partner nations in West Africa amid terror threats

Staff Sgt. Kyle, a U.S. Army Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha communications sergeant in 3rd Special Forces Group, uses rock drills to explain small unit tactics to Senegalese soldiers during Flintlock 2018 in Tahoua, Niger, April 12, 2018. Flintlock is an annual, African-led, integrated military and law enforcement exercise.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 17, 2018

U.S. Green Berets are working on small unit tactics with soldiers from partner nations during military drills in Niger, where more than 1,500 troops are gathered this week for combat training.

Flintlock 2018, Special Operations Command Africa’s largest military exercise, is focused on the fight against a wide range of terrorist groups operating in the region.

Al-Qaida and Islamic State group affiliates as well as Boko Haram are some of the enemy groups operating in countries like Mali, Niger and Nigeria.

Al-Qaida is the more serious long-term threat, the U.S. military’s special operations commander in Africa said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks pointed to last month’s deadly attack on the army headquarters and heavily guarded French Embassy in Burkina Faso that was claimed by an al-Qaida-linked group in neighboring Mali, according to AP.

“I believe al-Qaida has a more disciplined approach to developing infrastructure across Africa, north Africa, the Sahel,” Hicks told AP on Thursday. “They are taking a patient approach to gaining ground in influence over organizations that are already there and co-opting local and regional grievances and turning it to their own devices.”

The drills come six months after an ambush in Niger that resulted in the deaths of four U.S. soldiers. The attack brought increased attention to the risks U.S. troops face in remote parts of Africa.

The focus of the year’s Flintlock exercise, a two-week effort that ends Friday, is the day-to-day threat faced by local units on the ground, according to U.S. military officials. The emphasis is not only on the tactical proficiency of small units, but to establish stronger command and control of joint forces operating in the region.

The training involves troops from eight African and 12 Western countries.

Twitter: @john_vandiver

A squad of Senegalese soldiers assaults the objective in a small unit tactics class during Flintlock 2018 in Tahoua, Niger, April 12, 2018.