West African, European and US navies and coast guards plan exercise Saharan Express

Navies and militaries from Europe, the U.S. and West African nations have finalized naval training exercises.

Military and civilian maritime professionals from West Africa, Europe, and the United States have finalized a challenging training agenda for exercise Saharan Express 2012.

Last week’s final planning conference at the Counternarcotics and Maritime Security (COSMAR) interagency operations center culminates previous months of close coordination to plan complex maritime interdiction operation (MIO) scenarios to be executed during the exercise.

“We live in a world that is confronted with many problems like piracy, drug trafficking, terrorism, organized crime,” said Colonel Alberto Ferdandes, chief of staff, Cape Verde armed forces. “It’s necessary for each of us to find a solution to respond to these problems in an efficient manner, we need to have a communal response and it is important that we are all prepared so we can produce a unified action.”

Colonel Fernandes continued to say that he hopes exercise Saharan Express will offer each partner nation the opportunity to work together and establish interoperability in the region.

Finalized last week for the MIO scenarios are visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drills; search and rescue scenarios; medical casualty drills; radio communication drills; and information management practice techniques. These scenarios are scheduled to be executed off the coasts of Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia and will be monitored and controlled by multiple Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) in the region.

The aim of exercise Saharan Express is to develop participant nations’ capabilities to monitor and enforce their own territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Should these participants meet in the future to conduct combined peacekeeping or humanitarian operations, or to counter trafficking in drugs, people, or weapons in the Atlantic Ocean, they will be better able to respond and work together.

“The collaboration of West African and European nations coming together to share information is encouraging to see as Saharan Express grows each year,” said US Navy Lieutenant Commander Eric Moyer, lead exercise planner. “We’re looking forward to another great year.”

Exercise Saharan Express, scheduled to enter its second year later this year, is a continuation of West African, European, and U.S. navies and maritime agencies working to build maritime security in order to face common challenges.

This a continuation of military exchanges and training exercises between all sides mentioned in the article.  Military to military contacts are growing more in importance as various African nations become strategically important. The current events in Somalia and Gulf of Aden with regards to terrorism and piracy have shown this to be the case. The number of foreign navies in the region is an indication of the increased attempt to tackle the security issue. Such exercises and exchanges will only increase as events unfold in the region.

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