Islamic and Western countries have begun their annual two-week military exercise in Jordan, named Eager Lion.
About 10,000 military personnel are taking part in the exercise – up from 8,000 last year. Some 5,000 are from the United States – the same number as last year – from both conventional and special forces.
Among the other participating countries are Canada, Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom. Also taking part are Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.
NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps is also scheduled to play a role in the exercise. For the first time, the United States' B-52 strategic bomber will be included in the drill.
Eager Lion 2015 – the fifth edition of the annual military exercises – kicked off in Jordan today (Tuesday), and will run until May 19. The exercise is to include a series of simulated scenarios to develop skills on border security, command and control, cyber defense and battlespace management.
Brig. Gen. Fahad al-Damen, Director of Training at the Jordan Armed Forces, told reporters at a press conference that the drill is an opportunity for military commanders to meet and coordinate efforts and exchange expertise on counter-terrorism.
Similarly, Director of Exercises and Training at the U.S. Central Command, Maj. Gen. Rick Mattson, said the exercise "provides opportunities to build, strengthen and develop relations, and exchange experiences between the two sides to ensure the success of joint endeavors in the future."
Training will take place at nine different locations in the Kingdom, all of which are far from border areas, Al Damen pointed out. It was not clear whether he was only referring to Jordan's borders with Iraq and Syria, or also with Israel.
Mattson said the US army has no plans to leave any weapons, vehicles or military personnel in Jordan after the exercise. Last year, Jordanian officials said before Eager Lion 2014 that the U.S. was likely to leave Patriot missile batteries and F-16s in Jordan after the drill.