US-led war games underway in Morocco near disputed Western Sahara

AFP

2 min read
Moroccan Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at an airbase in Ben Guerir, about 36 miles north of Marrakesh, during the 'African Lion' military exercise, on June 14, 2021.
Fadel Senna/AFPMoroccan Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at an airbase in Ben Guerir, about 36 miles north of Marrakesh, during the 'African Lion' military exercise, on June 14, 2021.

Rabat pushes narrative that exercise is US backing for its claim of sovereignty over disputed region

US-led forces are carrying out war games near the disputed region of Western Sahara, in exercises jointly organized with Morocco.

More than 7,000 personnel from nine countries and NATO are taking part in the exercises codenamed "African Lion," which kicked off on June 8, according to US Africa Command.

The maneuvers, due to conclude Friday, have seen rockets fired near Western Sahara, navy boats patrol off the coast of Spain's Canary Islands and air forces conduct training exercises.

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said in a tweet ahead of the exercises that the event "marks the consecration of American recognition of the Moroccan Sahara."

But the US take on the exercises differed.

"Exercise locations are spread mainly across Morocco, from Kenitra Air Base in the north to Tan Tan and Guerir Labouhi training complex in the south," Africom said in a statement.

AFP reported military activity taking place in the desert on the edges of Western Sahara, some 30 miles from the Algerian desert town of Tindouf, where the separatist Polisario Front has a base.

Morocco laid claim to Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony with rich phosphate resources and offshore fisheries after Spain withdrew in 1975.

The Polisario Front took up arms to demand independence, proclaiming the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976 and fighting a 16-year war with Morocco.

Morocco now controls 80 percent of the territory, while Polisario Front holds the rest.

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