Tag Archives: Morocco

Crisis Response Marines Train in Conjunction With African Lion 14

Last week, Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR) conducted a training exercise in Morocco, in conjunction with the annual African Lion bilateral training exercise. On 3 April 2014, Marines from SPMAGTF-CR flew in two MV-22B Osprey aircraft from Moron Air Base in Spain to Tifnit, Morocco. On arrival, the Marines set up security for a hypothetical United States government compound to protect US citizens and property within.

Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response board an MV-22B Osprey for a training exercise in Tifnit, Morocco on 3 April 2014

Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response board an MV-22B Osprey for a training exercise in Tifnit, Morocco on 3 April 2014.

The training event is yet another instance where the capabilities of SPMAGTF-CR have been highlighted as of late. The unit was created last spring in the wake of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012. Since then, the Marines have forward deployed to Djibouti and Uganda to be able to respond to the crisis in South Sudan. More recently, Marines from SPMAGTF-CR have deployed to Romania to reinforce US units in that region. Officially that deployment has nothing to do with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

African Lion, which ended last Saturday, is also an important annual bilateral training exercise with Morocco, which has a long history of cooperation with the US, dating back to the American Revolution. African Lion dates back at least to the 1990s, at which time it was a biennial exercise sponsored by US European Command (EUCOM) and conducted by the Southern European Task Force (SETAF). US Marine Corps Forces, Europe (MARFOREUR) subsequently took over the exercise in the 2000s.

With the creation of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008, EUCOM relinquished responsibility for the exercise. Marine Corps Forces, Africa (MARFORAF) also took over the actual conduct of the event. The annual exercise also involves members from other US military services, such as the Army and the Air Force, and is observed by numerous foreign partners.

This year, approximately 150 soldiers of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, 350 U.S. servicemembers participated in the African Lion exercise.  The focus of African Lion 14 was on interoperability with military-to-military engagements in stability operations, rapid response to contingencies, a multinational observer program with 13 different countries, non-lethal weapons and peace enforcement, live-fire and weapons familiarization training, humanitarian and disaster-relief response. Other nations observing the exercise included: Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Tunisia, Turkey, Spain, Senegal, and the United Kingdom.

Details of US Security Assistance Efforts in North Africa

Yesterday at a hearing on the Political, Economic, and Security Situation in Africa held by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda Dory provided some important information on US security assistance efforts in North Africa.  Dory specifically detailed efforts being conducted by the US government in Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.  Here are the salient points:


US Government departments and agencies, to include the department of defense are working with the Algerian government to expand cooperation and build security force capabilities.  This includes information sharing and training exercises, as well as equipment for “counterterrorism  purposes” and to enhance “defense capabilities.”  The testimony identified previous military equipment delivered by the US as including eight C-130 aircraft and an unnamed border security system built by Northrop Grumman.   The US military is also said to run an International Military Education and Training (IMET) program with the Algerian military to help modernize and enhance the professionalization of their forces.


The US military, as well as other government agencies, are heavily invested in the development of Libyan security forces and their capabilities.  Most notably, the United States has offered to provide “General Purpose Force” military training for 5,000-8,000 Libyan personnel.  These forces would be used to protect the government and help establish order, which has been a significant issue since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi.  This is part of a larger US and international effort that builds on consensus reached at a Paris Ministerial-level meeting on supporting Libya’s security and justice sector needs in February and British Prime Minister Cameron’s announcement at the G-8 Summit in June about expanding international support for Libya’s security sector.  In addition to the US training offer, both the United Kingdom and Italy have committed to train 2,000 Libyan General Purpose Forces personnel, each.  Dory said that the US expected to begin training in 2014 using funds from the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and would be conducted at an unnamed facility in Bulgaria, which would be US leased and US run.

The US is also working to establish a Libyan special operations forces capability.  This effort is funded in two ways.  The first is an $8.42 million special operations support company and medical training program funded through Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The others is a $7.75 million special operations forces company build program funded through the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF; Section 1207 of the NDAA), which is a joint Department of Defense and Department of State fund.  It is unclear whether these programs are related to the special operations training effort that was reportedly stalled following a raid on a US-run training camp in September.

$14.9 million in GSCF funds are also to be used to improve Libyan border security capabilities and those of its neighbors, Algeria, Chad, and Niger.  Establishment of a Libyan border security company is part of this effort.

Lastly, the US is working with the Libyan government on a chemical weapons abatement program at Waddan said to total $45 million dollars.  These efforts are being conducted by contractors, who have set up a static detonation chamber and hope to have eliminated the rest of the stockpile by the end of the year.  The little reported US follow-on mission to NATO’s Operation Unified Protector in 2011, Operation Odyssey Guard, involved securing Libya’s chemical weapon stockpile and the beginning of efforts to eliminate it.


Morocco is a major non-NATO ally of the US with which there is a long history of cooperation.  Every year the US holds a bilateral training exercise, African Lion, with Moroccan forces.  The two countries conduct various other engagements regularly as well, such as an IMET program.   The US also works to provide Moroccan forces with significant materiel support through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Excess Defense Articles programs.


The US government is working with Tunisia to expand the capabilities of its security forces to help in regional counter-terrorism efforts and improve border security.  The US provides training and material assistance to the country through the FMF program and conducts an IMET program with the country’s security forces.

A copy of the full testimony can be found here.