http://almashareq.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_am/features/2019/03/08/feature-01

Security |

Joint drills strengthen regional stability: Arab experts

US aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis recently sailed to the Middle East. [Photo courtesy of USS John C. Stennis Facebook page]

Recurring military exercises involving US forces and partner nations in the Gulf and Middle East involve realistic training that ensures the participating militaries are ready to address any threat, military officials said.

The joint drills also enhance co-ordination capabilities between the US and Arab states, and underscore and affirm the US's full commitment to its partners.

US allies in the region "consider the US a full strategic partner", retired UAE army officer Abdullah al-Ameri told Al-Mashareq, adding that the partnership entails joint co-operation in both the military and political spheres.

US and Jordanian soldiers take part in the 'Eager Lion' military exercises held in Jordan in 2018. [Photo circulated on social media]

US and Kuwait forces take part in the 'Invincible Sentry' crisis response exercise in Kuwait in August 2018. [Photo courtesy of the US Embassy in Kuwait]

"The successive security developments and growing threats make military co-operation an imperative in order to respond to potential dangers," he added.

This requires a high degree of harmony among military forces in the region and the US Central Command (CENTCOM), al-Ameri said.

Bilateral and joint exercises in the region play a key role in achieving this, and are conducted periodically to strengthen the capabilities of participants and establish formulas of joint military action, he added.

"The US constantly seeks to reassure its partners in the region," he said, noting that the dispatch of aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to the region sends a strong sign of reassurance to regional partners and affirms the US presence.

'One integrated system'

Gulf state militaries "have significantly improved their capabilities through the joint exercises held with their counterparts in the US military", Saudi officer Suleiman al-Makkawi, a specialist in training affairs, told Al-Mashareq.

Around 80 joint military exercises are conducted throughout the year, he said.

These include the "Eager Lion" exercises, held in Jordan in April 2018, "Invincible Sentry", held in Kuwait in August 2018, and "Inferno Creek", held in Oman in January.

"The training is not limited to military units of the armies of the region, but also includes internal security forces, civil defence and rapid intervention teams," he said.

The aim is to co-ordinate internal and external operations in the event of an emergency or threat, he said, and to elevate joint co-ordination between the units to the highest level of readiness so they act immediately when necessary.

In cases of danger, such as wars, preventive operations or a terrorist attack, and even in the case of natural disasters, "co-ordination between the units is vital in order to contain the threat as quickly as possible", he said.

"The various units, from the operations rooms to the ground, air and sea forces, and civil defence and ambulance teams all act harmoniously as part of one integrated system," he said.

A 'significant deterrent'

The departure of USS Stennis to the Gulf signals "that the US is capable of responding to any potential threat" and affirms its commitment to supporting its allies and partners in the region, said Qatari military expert Riyad al-Ali.

USS Stennis carries dozens of defensive and attack helicopters and dozens of advanced fighter jets belonging to the US Navy and US Marine Corps, he said.

With its previous experience in the region and its combat and fast-action capabilities, it is capable of deterring any potential threat, he told Al-Mashareq.

The USS Stennis is accompanied by a destroyer, cruisers and a nuclear submarine, which together protect US allies and serve as a deterrent to any attack or attempt to disrupt navigation, he added.

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