Over 15 nations to join US-led military drill near Syria border

Over 15 nations to join US-led military drill near Syria border

Over 15 nations to join US-led military drill near Syria border

Wounded Syrian soldiers are taken to hospital after a bomb attack which targets their convoy as they escort UN peace observers, including the Norwegian general. AP photo

The United States military said yesterday that 12,000 soldiers from 17 countries would be taking part in this month’s military exercises in Jordan, designed to enhance their ability to meet “security challenges.”

Special action troops, naval and air force units from countries including Turkey, France and Saudi Arabia will carry out the joint training operations, according to the Voice of Russia. “The tactical execution of the Eager Lion 2012 exercises will officially start on May 15,” Major Robert Bockholt, public affairs officer at Special Operations Command Central, told Agence France-Presse.

“Eager Lion is an annual, multi-national exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships through a joint, entire-government, multinational approach, integrating all instruments of national power to meet current and future complex national security challenges. … We acknowledge the right of each participating country to announce their participation in the exercise on their own terms,” Bockholt said. In April, the U.S. Department of Defense said the exercise would be held from May 7 to May 28. Bockholt said participants had been gathering in Jordan from May 7, to prepare for the land, sea and air exercises, which will be held in “various training locations.” “In all, there are more than 12,000 service members participating in the exercise,” he said.

Iran, Syria links denied

Some local media reports have speculated that the war games are linked to the unrest in neighboring Syria, saying the troops were seeking to secure Jordan’s border. “The execution of Eager Lion 2012 is not connected to any real-world event. It has nothing to do with Syria. It is just a coincidence,”

Bockholt said. The Saudi Defense Ministry also insists that the joint large-scale military maneuvers of the U.S.-Arab allies are in no way linked to the situation in Syria or Iran.

The war games come as Jordan’s Special Operations Forces Exhibition is under way, displaying new technologies by defense manufacturers around the world.

Jordan is a major beneficiary of U.S. military and economic aid, with Washington granting Amman $2.4 billion in the past five years, according to official figures.