Tunisia: African Lion Military Exercise Continues Amidst Battle for Influence

by | Jun 4, 2023 | Diplomacy, Security, Tunisia


The US-led African Lion military exercise is being held from mid-May to mid-June in multiple countries across Africa, including Morocco and Tunisia. The exercise comes amidst growing criticism from US and international policymakers about US support for Tunisia during a period that has been characterized by some as a drift toward authoritarianism.

The African Lion exercise has taken place in some form since the late 1990s as a means for the US to train alongside and build relationships with partners across Africa. The 2023 event will include approximately 8,000 military personnel, including 4,000 form the US and 4,000 from African countries including Morocco, Djibouti, Ghana, Senegal, and Tunisia.

The US has maintained a commitment to supporting Tunisia’s security forces, even as other forms of aid have been limited in recent years.

Meanwhile, Russia and China continue to make slow, but persistent progress in developing relations with Tunisia, which has long been considered a western-leaning state. A Russian official recently claimed that Tunisia will be the “favorite” destination for Russian tourists this season. Russians are searching for creative vacation options as their global isolation deepens as the war in Ukraine wears on.

China recently sent a delegation from the Communist Party of China (CPC) to visit Tunisia, during which visits were held with Tunisian parliamentarians and cultural events of mutual interest were attended.


The US remains a powerful influence in Tunisia and appears committed to the strengthening of capabilities and ties with the Tunisian military. However, Tunisia is particularly open to new relationships at the moment as criticism and skepticism from the West have only continued to build as the country’s economic and political crises play out.

Russia and China do not appear close to subverting US influence in Tunisia, however, with much less critical voices, these countries have the potential to slowly build diplomatic momentum into the future which could incrementally erode US influence in Tunisia and beyond.


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