As the Corona virus (COVID-19) continues to spread unabated, United States military leaders have decided to suspend various international exercises in Africa. With it forces spread in more than 150 countries around the world, the United States military is now implementing broader measures to protect personnel from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, a domestic travel restriction for all U.S. military personnel was enforced on Monday, March 16 in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
As of Sunday morning, 37 U.S. Defense Department personnel were confirmed positive for COVID-19, that number includes 18 service members, 13 dependents, three civilians and three contractors. To minimize the number of infection, the U.S military has conducted 495 tests for the virus as of Sunday, according to Joint Staff Surgeon USAF Brigadier General Paul Friedrichs.
So far, there are more than 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, and nearly 4,000 deaths as a result, according to the World Health Organization.
Exercise African Lion 2020
African Lion exercise, which is by far the largest military exercise organized by U.S. Army Africa (AFRICOM), and slated to kick off on March 23 and involving more than 9,000 troops from more than a dozen countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom.
AFRICOM announced on 16 March that it decided to cancel the exercise to minimize the risk of exposure to troops of the US and partner nation.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to cancel the exercise was made based on international travel restrictions associated with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and to minimize the risk of exposure to U.S. and partner nation service members,” AFRICOM said Monday.
Initially, AFRICOM had scaled down plans for the African Lion exercise in order to avoid clustering troops together during close quarter battle (CQB) exercises.
Exercise Obangame Express 2020
The 2020 edition of Exercise Obangame Express was also cancelled on Saturday 14 March. AFRICOM announced the cancellation of Obangame Express 2020 in a Press Release, stating that the decision was made after careful consideration with exercise participants and host-nation countries.
The Press statement read: “We continue to remain on top of the COVID-19 situation and take appropriate action to protect our troops and African partners,” said General Stephen J Townsend, commander of US Africa Command. “We may reduce in scope the size or cancel an exercise, but we will continue to lean forward to make sure troops in Africa have what they need.”
Obangame Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
Although Exercise Obangame 2020 was cancelled, however, AFRICOM emphasised that planning [still] continues for a senior leader seminar and Obangame Express 2021.
Exercise Phoenix Express 2020
likewise, Exercise Phoenix Express 2020 was not left out, the “U.S. Africa Command will continue to evaluate and adjust the scope of its activities as necessary to ensure force health protection and prevent the spread of the virus.” According to a 17 March Press Release by AFRICOM.
Phoenix Express which was originally scheduled on April 5-18 in the Mediterranean Sea, is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea and territorial waters of participating North African nations.