By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
A major military exercise kicked off in Jordan on August 25. It brings together key western and Gulf countries in the Kingdom with a view towards regional security. This is its ninth year and it goes on for two weeks. By the looks of it turnout is larger than in the past.
US Major Gen. Brad Swanson expressed appreciation to the Kingdom of Jordan’s armed forces on Sunday for hosting Eager Lion training drills. The Jordan Times reported that 8,000 personnel from 29 countries are participating. Jordanian Brig. Gen. Mohammad Thalji addressed a press conference at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center to discuss the importance of improving interoperability among partner nations.
“Exercise Eager Lion, a ‘keystone event’ between the strategic partnership between the U.S. military and Jordan Forces, commenced for a seventh year on May 7.”- CENTCOM, 2017
Swanson said the exercise was in its ninth year and would address threats to regional security. He said this year the nations participating would look at combined air and land drills. This included drills to “outsmart and outmaneuver” adversaries. Eager Lion began in 2010 as a two week multinational event. It has included an array of western allies and Middle Eastern partners. Photos at CENTCOM from a 2017 exercise near Amman show field artillery using High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and notes how the drills help to strengthen military to military relationships between Jordan, the US and other countries. That year 7,200 personnel came from 20 countries. The 2019 exercise is therefore a growth on previous years.
The Jordan Times notes that the drill will help countries respond to unstable security circumstances and that it helps to improve training and strategic and local operational needs. “In addition to Jordan, forces from the US, Australia, Austria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, Italy, Cyprus, Bahrain, Qatar, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Spain, the UAE, the UK, Tajikistan and Norway are taking part in the drill.”
The event has added importance this year because it is the first year after the Syrian conflict largely ended in southern Syria. It comes amid Iran tensions. The US still maintains its Tanf base in Syria near the Jordan-Iraq-Syrian border. In addition the countries that are participating include Jordan’s key western allies as well as Gulf countries. Clearly absent, but not surprising given the current strategic alliances, are countries close to Iran. Turkey is also noticeably absent, but Iraq and Qatar did participate. Oman is also present. There is no mention of the Palestinian Authority or Israel. The PA has in the past sent forces to Jordan for training and the US Security Coordinator has supported the PA security forces.
Jordan still faces regional security threats, including from extremist groups and also because it is under strain from hosting almost a million Syrians for many years. The Kingdom has faced down ISIS cells and other threats in recent years and is a major recipient of military and other assistance from the US and other countries. It has played a key role as a bulwark of stability during the years after 2003 in Iraq and 2011 in Syria when both countries suffered internal conflicts.
The drill continues until September 5. Swanson is US Central Command’s Director for Exercises and Training.
More photos here
CENTCOM statement from 2017