The United States is leading what it described as the “largest military exercises in the Middle East in 10 years” in Jordan on Tuesday.
Eager Lion 2012 “is the largest exercise held in the region in the past ten years,” Major General Ken Tovo, head of the US Special Operations Forces, told reporters in Amman.
“Yesterday we began to apply the skills that we have developed over the last weeks in an irregular warfare scenario … They will last for approximately the coming two weeks,” he added.
“The message that I want to send through this exercise is that we have developed the right partners throughout the region and across the world … insuring that we have the ability to … meet challenges that are coming to our nations,” Tovo said.
Over 12,000 soldiers are taking part in the war games, representing 19 countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Australia.
Jordanian army operations and training chief Major General Awni Adwan said the military exercise “has been in the planning phase for the past three years.”
“No forces will be deployed north … the exercise is not connected to any real world event,” Adwan said when asked if the war games were related to the ongoing violence in Jordan’s northern neighbor Syria.
“This has nothing to do with Syria. We respect the sovereignty of Syria. There is no tension between the Syrians and us. Our objectives are clear,” Adwan said.
Israel – despite having extensive security agreements with Jordan – was not invited to participate in the exercises. Several Arab nations participating in the drill are still formally at war with the Jewish state.
Washington has granted Amman $2.4 billion in military and economic aid in the past five years, according to official figures