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FLINTLOCK22 Opening Ceremony
February 20, 2022

U.S. Ambassador Richard Bell and Ivoirian Chief of the Defense Staff General Lassina Doumbia speak with the press.

[All protocols observed.]


Remarks from Richard Bell, U.S. Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire

FLINTLOCK22 Opening Ceremony

Sunday 20 February 2022, AILCT

Good morning and thank you for being here for the official opening of this major annual multinational exercise, which is being held for the first time in Côte d’Ivoire. I particularly thank our Ivoirian hosts for agreeing to host the exercise, and I congratulate Côte d’Ivoire and France for their joint initiative to create this International Counterterrorism Academy (AILCT), which the United States is supporting with $1.5 million of infrastructure, and that is just the beginning.

This Academy is a precious resource for strengthening the professionalism of security forces, which is more relevant than ever, because the key to success is to have the support of the population.  Indeed, Rule #1 of counter-insurgency is that it must be you and the people against the enemy.  But that’s not all:  when the state can count on the support of the people, it can take heavy losses and keep moving forward.

That’s what FLINTLOCK is all about:  all the participants are elite forces, who will learn together, and implement, best practices in order to win while respecting international law and protecting the population.  Those who have the good fortune to be better resourced than others will have an opportunity to learn how to obtain maximum results with more modest means.  And it so happens that special operations forces are selected precisely for their aptitude to innovate and adapt to circumstances.

The participation of ten countries in this year’s FLINTLOCK is an expression of solidarity against a common threat and a commitment to doing things right.  At a time when many are questioning whether respect for human rights is compatible with winning, this exercise is a strong vote of confidence.  We deserve to proud of this principled stance that we share.

I wish full success to all participants, both during FLINTLOCK and afterwards.

Remarks from Rear Admiral Milton Sands, Commander of Special Operations Command Africa

FLINTLOCK22 Opening Ceremony

Sunday 20 February 2022, AILCT

[All protocols observed.]

Good morning.  It is my great honor and privilege to welcome everyone to Exercise Flintlock.  I am especially glad to be here because we had to cancel last year’s exercise due to the pandemic.  The fact that we are able to be here today is a true testament to our ability to overcome adversity in order to accomplish our shared objectives.

I would like to extend a special thank you to our Ivorian hosts for their hospitality and support during this important exercise.  Your commitment to host Flintlock reflects the dedication you have to address regional challenges.  I am particularly impressed by this world-class training facility – the AILCT.  I hope that many of the participants in Flintlock continue to leverage this facility for future training and am pleased that we will be back here again for the exercise next year.

I would also like to thank our African participants from Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, and Niger for their hard work and commitment to making this happen.  I am also pleased that Ghana will host Flintlock in 2023, alongside Côte d’Ivoire, and hope you learn lessons from how we were able to execute this year.  Many thanks to our SOF partners from Canada, France, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Norway– and to Austria and Germany for sending staff advisors.  Finally, we’ve seen increased investment from all of you as you deployed your African partners here, and Canada took the lead to run the site support functions.  Without your commitment and cooperation, this exercise would never have happened.  Thank you.

In addition to our gracious hosts, I would also like to thank Ambassador Bell and everyone at the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan for their outstanding support.  Their diligent preparation and engagement throughout the planning and now execution phase of the exercise have made this event possible.

I could spend the rest of the day thanking every participant for their contributions, energy, and investment making this exercise a success.  The combined efforts of this community are what makes Flintlock more than a military exercise.  We are training together, sharing burdens, increasing interoperability, and building relationships.  This results in the most important commodity of Flintlock – trust.

Flintlock strengthens our ability to counter violent extremist organizations, collaborate across borders, and provide security to our people.  The enemies of stability and progress do not recognize borders, making it even more important to work together.  None of us can solve these problems alone.

For that reason, a main focus of Flintlock is information sharing.  If we can’t communicate, we can’t work together.  By working on our bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationships, building better communications mechanisms, and sharing information we will build understanding and trust.  This will increase our ability to provide command and control, strengthen our interoperability, and ultimately improve our operational success.

Another important aspect of Flintlock is that all of you deployed here with your partners for the first time – which is no small task.  One of the reasons we continue to do exercises like Flintlock is to learn lessons.  Logistics and sustainment are an essential warfighting function and I am sure the commanders here, and their staffs, have already begun to look at ways that we can improve together next year.

Again, I’d like to reiterate my appreciation to Côte d’Ivoire not only for your hospitality but for the hard work and effort that you’ve put into preparing for this exercise.  And, finally, thanks to all of you – commanders and forces who are here to participate.  We must continue to use events like this to build trust, support, and interoperability so we can win today’s fights and secure the future for generations yet to come.