Madrid has pulled its forces out of the forthcoming 2021 African Lion exercises in Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal reportedly after learning part of the maneuvers would be held in Western Sahara.
On Saturday, Spanish daily El Pais reported that the Spanish Ministry of Defense was pulling its part of the African Lion exercises for what it officially claims are budgetary limitations. However, ministry insider sources reportedly told the paper the real reason was that Madrid didn’t wish to legitimize Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, where some of the drills will reportedly be held.
The drills are due to begin on June 7 and will last until June 18, involving some 7,000 troops, including from the US and from hosting nations Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal, as well as from Italy, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. According to El Pais, the Moroccan drills will take place at Tantan in Morocco as well as Dakhla and al-Mahbès, both of which are in Western Sahara and the latter of which is less than 100 miles from the Saharawi refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria.
Drill Locations Lay in Dispute
As early as late March, the Moroccan tabloid Al-Ahdath Al-Maghribia reported the two Western Sahara locations in African Lion plans, but more recently, these have been omitted in reports about the drills. For example, US Africa Command (AFRICOM), which coordinates the African Lion exercises, only mentions Tantan in an April 27…