The Spanish army has decided to cancel the 2021 edition of the military exercise « African Lion », scheduled for 7 to 18 June in Morocco. The Spanish Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, has revealed that the Iberian army will not participate in these traditional manoeuvres, which will see the participation of 7,800 soldiers, 67 aircraft, 21 of which are combat aircraft and 46 support aircraft, and two naval components. It will cost 32 million euros. Similarly, Algeria will not be participating in this event.
Officially, the Spanish Ministry of Defence, headed by Margarita Robles, is giving « budgetary reasons » for not taking part. Nevertheless, under cover of anonymity, « government sources » tell the daily El Pais that Spain does not want its participation in the « African Lion 2021 » to be interpreted as an act of recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara.
This is one more proof of the divergence of views between Rabat and Madrid on the Sahara issue, and this since the decision of former President Donald Trump on 10 December 2020. Like Spain, Algeria will obviously not participate in these traditional military manoeuvres which will see the participation of 7,800 soldiers, 67 aircraft, including 21 combat and 46 support aircraft, and two naval components, at a cost of 32 million euros.
This year’s exercise consecrates the « Moroccanity of Western Sahara », knowing that they will take place, in addition to Tan-Tan, in Mahbès (only a hundred kilometres from the Tindouf camps in Algeria, editor’s note), and Dakhla. A first in the history of this military operation. A decision with political connotations that goes against the interests of the Spanish army who want to strengthen their achievements in the fight against terrorism.
The Moroccan press recalls the participation, last March, of the Spanish army in a seminar in Niger, dedicated to the fight against terrorism, without forgetting the presence of the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez, at the G5 Sahel summit, organised in Nouakchott in July 2020, in which Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad took part.