ACCRA, Ghana: Amid the spread of extremist violence in West Africa's Sahel region, the US military has launched its annual military training exercise, entitled Flintlock, aimed at helping armies contain the region's jihadi threats.
The US stated it aims to assist African countries curb the threats posed by extremists before they spread further in the the region.
As part of Flintlock, which began this week, 1,300 military personnel from 29 African countries are training in Ghana and Ivory Coast in counter-insurgency tactics.
The two-week exercise comes amid rising jihadi violence linked to Islamist groups al-Qaida and the Islamic State, which killed thousands, displaced millions and has plunged African countries into crises.
Despite most extremist activities being concentrated in West Africa's inland Sahel region in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the crisis is now spreading to coastal states, such as Ghana.
This year's Flintlock exercise is taking place amid growing anti-French sentiment in West Africa. Mali's and Burkina Faso's military juntas are now receiving military support from Russia, and Mali is also working with private Russian mercenary outfit, the Wagner Group.
"If the instability gets too broad or too bad then it opens the aperture for other malign actors to try and influence and try and corrupt the messaging to gain access to some of these governments," said US Col. Rob Zyla, deputy commander for Special Operations Command Africa, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Additionally, Ghanaian military officials say jihadis could soon work with local pirates, which will harm economic activity in the coastal countries.
Colonel William Nortey with the Ghanaian army noted, "We already know that they have intent to link up with piracy and enhance operations," he told the Associated Press.
"The reality of the state of affairs in our neighborhood demands that the government goes to great lengths to ensure the security, safety and stability of our nation," noted Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo in his State of the Nation address this week.
Rukmini Sanyal, Ghana analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said that extreme poverty, high inflation and the shortage of jobs for young men have created favorable conditions for jihadi recruitment.