Amid the turmoil in neighboring Syria, over 12,000 troops from 19 countries are undertaking a massive war game exercise in Jordan, involving land, air, marine and special forces, that U.S. military officials say is aimed at enhancing interoperability between allied forces.

Dubbed “Eager Lion 2012,” the bulk of the troops deployed in the three-week exercise are from U.S. Jordan is the host country and Saudi Arabian forces are also involved, but the identity of the others countries has not been reported.

“We acknowledge the right of each participating country to announce their participation in the exercise on their own terms,” said Maj. Robert Bockholt, public affairs officer at U.S. Special Operations Command Central Command.

The major exercise is reported to be taking place near the border with Syria as well as in the Gulf of Aqaba, across from Israel. Officials said that the war game scenarios are not directed at any particular enemy.

Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz told the Jordan News Agency Petra that the exercise has no hidden goals, but is rather part of the Gulf kingdom's measures to build the capacity of its armed forces. He stressed that Saudi Arabia's participation has nothing to do with the unrest in the region.

Bockholt said Eager Lion 12 has been in the planning phase for the past three years and was aimed at promoting “cooperation and interoperability among participating forces, builds functional capacity, practices crisis management and enhances readiness.”

“The focus of Eager Lion 12 is to strengthen military-to-military relationships of participating partner nations through a joint, whole-of-government, multinational approach, integrating all instruments of national power to meet current and future complex national security challenges,” Bockholt said in a statement.

The coordinated joint task force is being commanded jointly by U.S. Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Central Command, and his Jordanian counterpart, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Jeridad, director of Jordan’s Training and Doctrine Command.

Bockholt said there were a total of 12,000 service members from five different continents participating in the exercise, he said.

Some local media reports have speculated that the war games are linked to the unrest in neighboring Syria, saying the troops seek to secure the Hashemite Kingdom’s border. “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.

Defense News reported that the virtual theater of operations for the war games spreads across three fictitious countries—all within Jordanian borders—and involves combined-arms land forces, fixed-wing air power, utility and attack helicopters and a U.S. Marine expeditionary unit. The drill will also feature a simulated chemical spill to enable first responders to hone emergency management skills.

“We carved up the kingdom to simulate three countries, with blue, red and orange land forces all operating within sovereign Jordanian territory,” one war game participant told Defense News.

“We understand that there’s a lot of speculation given the regional instability, but this has been in the planning for a long time and is not aimed at any specific country or event,” he added.

Much of the pre-drill training is being conducted at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center, a state-of-the-art facility funded jointly by the U.S. and Jordan. Jordan is a major beneficiary of US military and economic aid, with Washington granting Amman $2.4 billion in the past five years, according to official figures.

Source: By Arieh O'Sullivan, The Media Line, May 10, 2012

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