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Friday, October 21, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

U.S. trains with Moroccan Army in Sahara Desert

CAIRO — The United States has been training with Morocco's army in an effort to enhance desert combat.


The militaries of Morocco and the United States have been conducting joint training in the desert of the North African kingdom. Military sources said the training was meant to help U.S. forces work in the vast deserts in the Gulf as well as North Africa, which contains a significant presence of Al Qaida.

"Training here is good because the terrain is a lot like in Afghanistan," Marine Corps Cpl. Charles Thames said.

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In 2011, Morocco and the United States staged a six-week exercise that exposed U.S. forces to desert combat. The exercise, called African Lion, consisted of more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers and 900 members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces and took place in several locations including Cap Draa in the Sahara Desert.

"The exercise serves as a way for U.S. and Moroccan military members to hone skills and learn to work together to accomplish missions," a U.S. military statement said.

During May, the Marines taught the Moroccans a range of skills, including counter-insurgency techniques as well as comand post, live fire, aerial fueling and low-level flight training. They said the U.S. force also demonstrated its light armored vehicle arsenal for the Moroccan military.

The U.S. military has established a presence in southern Morocco. Officials said U.S. officers were training Moroccan troops as well as monitoring Al Qaida throughout North Africa.

Officials said the U.S. military was also introducing air and ground equipment to Morocco. They cited light armored vehicles, main battle tanks and air refueling platforms.

"The Marines have had the chance to train with the Moroccans in a way which has exposed them to different approaches and tactics, as well as increasing their knowledge of different weapons systems," U.S. Maj. Gordon Hilbun said.

The Marines who participated in African Lion were expected be used to instruct others in desert combat. They said the Marines would gain experience in understanding desert conditions and how to properly use their equipment in such an environment.

"Since I don't have much longer in the service, my goal is to pass my knowledge down to my junior Marines to prepare them for what their future holds," Thames said.

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