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US to send 6,000 to Jordan for annual military exercise

Marines assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit return to camp after demonstrating a reconnaissance patrol to the Jordanian Armed Forces in Al Quweira, Jordan, on June 12, 2013, as part of the international Eager Lion exercise.

NAPLES, Italy — More than 6,000 U.S. troops are expected in Jordan this week for a military exercise meant to signal American commitment to the region.

Dubbed Eager Lion, the exercise beginning Sunday will bring together more than 12,000 troops from 20 nations to drill in the desert country, a key American ally. Jordan hosts the annual event, now in its fourth year.

Participants will train together in air, ground and maritime operations, focusing on skills from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism operations and cybersecurity, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said.

The exercise is an opportunity for the U.S. to underline its commitment to a region of vital importance and to Jordan in particular, which has been rattled by the civil war in neighboring Syria and the resulting flood of refugees. It also allows U.S. officers to form relationships with counterparts in Middle Eastern countries.

Tensions with Iran, the spread of Islamist militants across the area and the proliferation of chemical or conventional weapons are among other concerns facing the region. Jordan is concerned about any spillover of the Syrian war, where radical Islamic militants are increasingly at the forefront of the uprising against the secular regime of President Bashar Assad.

After last year’s exercise, the Pentagon left 900 Americans behind in Jordan for training and deterrence as the fighting in Syria heated up. The detachment included a Patriot missile battery, an F-16 squadron and chemical weapons experts to train Jordanians in defending against an attack.

This year’s version of the exercise is larger than last year’s, which counted 8,000 participants.

Eager Lion, which will run until June 8, takes place at installations across the kingdom and in international waters of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, the Pentagon said.

beardsley.steven@stripes.com
Twitter: @sjbeardsley

 

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