The United States began its annual counter-terrorism training program for African forces in Ghana on Wednesday, aiming to strengthen border defenses in the fight against Islamist insurgents who are spreading south into new territories.
The program, known as Flintlock, started at a military base in the dusty northern town of Daboya where U.S. and European trainers drilled soldiers from across Africa on first aid and firing drills in the baking heat.
“Flintlock intends to strengthen the ability of key partner nations in the region to counter violent extremist organizations, collaborate across borders, and provide security for their people,” U.S. Africa Command said in a statement.
The training comes at a critical time for West Africa, where groups linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to carry out routine attacks on civilians and the military despite costly interventions from international forces. What began as a Mali-based insurgency in 2012 has since ballooned into a regional network of competing Islamist groups that operate across large areas of landlocked Niger and Burkina Faso and which in recent years have spread into coastal countries including Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast.The violence has killed thousands and displaced millions.So far Ghana, whose rural north borders Burkina Faso, has been spared the violence, but security experts say organized crime is rife, and poor, remote communities could be vulnerable to recruitment, as they have been in neighboring countries.
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