Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara

Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara
Part of the War on Terrorism (Insurgency in the Maghreb)

A United States special forces NCO watches weapons marksmanship training for a member of a Malian counter-terrorism unit in December 2010[1]
Date6 February 2007 – ongoing
(9 years, 9 months, 4 weeks and 1 day)
LocationSahara Desert
Result Conflict ongoing
Mauritania Mauritania
Tunisia Tunisia
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso
Nigeria Nigeria
Supported & Trained By:
United States United States
Canada Canada [2][3][4]
France France[2][5]
Germany Germany[2]
Netherlands Netherlands[2]
Spain Spain[2][6]
 United Kingdom[7][8]
al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (from 2007)
Ansar Dine (from 2012)
Supported By:
Boko Haram (from 2009)
MOJWA (until 2013)
Commanders and leaders
United States Barack Obama (2009–present)
United States George W. Bush (2007-2009)
United States David M. Rodriguez (2007-2016)
Chad Idriss Deby (2007-present)
Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika (2007-present)
Algeria Ahmed Ouyahia (2007-2014)
Algeria Abdelmalek Sellal (2014-present)
Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (2009-present)
Abdelmalek Droukdel
Mokhtar Belmokhtar  [9]
Tiyib Ould Sidi Ali  [10]
Athmane Touati  [11]
Winan Bin Yousef (POW)[12]
1,325+ American advisors & trainers;[4][13]
900 Moroccans;[13]
400 Malians;[4]
250 Algerians;
200 Chadians;
<1,000 Mauritanians;[14]
25 Senegalese medical doctors
AQIM: 400-4,000[15]
Tuaregs: ~1,000[16]
Boko Haram: 300–2,000+[17]
Causes: September 11 attacks and 2003 Casablanca bombings

Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) is the name of the military operation conducted by the United States and partner nations in the Sahara/Sahel region of Africa, consisting of counterterrorism efforts and policing of arms and drug trafficking across central Africa. It is part of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The other OEF mission in Africa is Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA).

The Congress approved $500 million for the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI) over six years to support countries involved in counterterrorism against alleged threats of al-Qaeda operating in African countries, primarily Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, and Morocco.[18] This program builds upon the former Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI), which concluded in December 2004[19] and focused on weapon and drug trafficking, as well as counterterrorism.[20] TSCTI has both military and non-military components to it. OEF-TS is the military component of the program. Civil affairs elements include USAID educational efforts, airport security, Department of the Treasury, and State Department efforts.[21]

Canada deployed teams of less than 15 CSOR members to Mali throughout 2011 to help combat militants in the Sahara.[3] Although the special forces will not engage in combat, they will train the Malian military in basic soldiering. Areas include communications, planning, first aid, and providing aid to the general populace.[3]


Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara is primarily a training mission meant to equip 10 nations to combat insurgents in the region.[22] Africa Command states:

OEF-TS is the USG’s 3rd priority counter terror effort conducting activities that support TSCTP but are not exclusive to TSCTP. OEF-TS supports TSCTP by forming relationships of peace, security, and cooperation among all Trans Sahara Nations. OEF-TS fosters collaboration and communication among participating countries. Furthermore, OEF-TS strengthens counterterrorism and border security, promotes democratic governance, reinforces bilateral military ties, and enhances development and institution building. U.S. Africa Command, through OEF-TS, provides training, equipment, assistance and advice to partner nation armed forces. This increases their capacity and capability to deny safe haven to terrorists and ultimately defeat extremist and terrorist activities in the region.[22]

Training programs


U.S. Navy personnel demonstrate the use of rifles during Flintlock 2007

Twice a year, the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program holds a multinational training exercise.[23] Called Flintlocks, these exercises are meant to strengthen special forces from the United States as well as multiple other nations.[23] Participants include troops from the Sahel and those from NATO members.[23] Flintlock started in 1988 and continued through Operation Enduring Freedom, and is now held in Africa.[23] The exercises teach medical operations, infantry and peacekeeping training, airborne operations, humanitarian relief, and leadership skills.[23] The amount each category is stressed depends on the host nation's needs.[23] In addition, participants are put through different scenarios involving skills instructed during the exercise.[24]

Mali was supposed to host the 2012 exercise, but the United States decided to postpone the exercise.[25] Officials say Flintlock was postponed because Mali is facing a renewed Tuareg insurgency.[25]

The Atlas Accord

Although the Flintlock Exercise was postponed, another training program in Mali was not. The Atlas Accord was created in 2012 to train African military personnel in a number of skills while focusing on logistics.[4] The exercise includes classroom instruction and field instruction.[4] Atlas Accord 12 focused solely on logistics and aerial resupply, while the next exercise in 2013 will continue training in aerial logistics but will also include command, control, communications, and computer (C4) techniques.[4]

African Lion exercise

The largest training exercise, African Lion, is an annual security cooperation exercise held by the US and Morocco.[13] Created in 2008, this program is designed to instruct a variety of skills, including aerial logistics, non-lethal weapons training, combined arms and maneuver exercises.[13] More than 900 Moroccans and 1,200 Americans take part in the two week exercise.[13]

See also


  1. "Training in Trans-Sahara Africa". USASOC News Service. United States Army Special Operations Command. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Flintlock 11 Kicks off February 21 in Senegal". AFRICOM. 3 February 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 "Canada Sends Special Forces to Aid African Al-Qaida Fight". Montreal Gazette. 2 December 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "US, Mali Armies Kick off Exercise Atlas Accord; Postpone Exercise Flintlock". Defense Web. 13 February 2012.
  5. "French Hostage Executed after raid on Al-Qaeda base". France 24 news. 26 July 2011.
  6. "Police in Spain arrest 5 suspected of financing terrorists". CNN. 27 September 2011.
  7. "US Starts Anti-Al-Qaeda Military Exercise in Sahara". BBC. 3 May 2010.
  8. "Britain Signals Maghreb Push with Anti-Terror Help". Reuters Africa. 18 October 2011.
  9. Hosted news, Google.
  10. "Mauritania army raid killed al-Qaida group leader". Miami Herald. 23 October 2011.
  11. "AQIM Leader Surrenders in Algeria". News24. 1 June 2011.
  12. Niger Militant with ties to killers of French engineer arrested, ADN Kronos.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "U.S., Morocco Plans Fifth "African Lion" Exercise". World Tribune. 12 February 2012.
  14. "Al Qaeda retreats from West Mali Camps-Military Sources". Reuters Africa. 5 August 2011.
  15. "Mauritania Killings May be New Qaeda Chapter". Reuters. 11 February 2008.
  16. "Tuaregs Use Qaddafi's Arms for Rebellion in Mali". The New York Times. 5 February 2012.
  17. "5 Facts About Boko Haram". 24/7 Nigeria news update.
  18. "US to get Africa command centre". BBC News. 6 February 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  19. "EUCOM: Operations and Initiatives". EUCOM. Archived from the original on 9 January 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
  20. "Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI)". Global Security. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
  21. "Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS)". Global Security. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
  22. 1 2 "Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara". AFRICOM.
  23. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Flintlock". Global Security.
  24. "Flintlock 10 Begins in Burkina Faso". AFRICOM. 4 May 2010.
  25. 1 2 "US Postpones Counter-Terrorism Training Exercises in Mali as Army there Battles Tuareg Rebels". The Washington Post. 10 February 2012.

External links

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