AMMAN, Jordan – A U.S. army commander said Tuesday that a joint military drillthat has brought together forces from 19 countries in Jordan is notmeant as a threat to neighboring Syria or its leader, Bashar Assad. Syrian newspapers have lashed out at the ongoing "Exercise EagerLion 12," claiming it was named after the Arabic surname of theSyrian president as a message to him that foreign forces are at hisdoorstep. Assad is lion in Arabic. The Syrian uprising, which began in March 2011 with mostly peacefulprotests calling for change, has turned into an increasinglymilitarized conflict. |
The U.N. estimates the violence has killedmore than 9,000 people. World powers have backed a peace plan thatwas put forward by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, but thebloodshed has not stopped. The May 7-28 drill in Jordan focuses on training Jordanian andSaudi servicemen in the treatment of refugees, anti-terrorismtactics and naval interception of smuggling vessels, according toMaj.
Gen. Ken Tovo, a U.S. commanding general of specialoperations. Jordan has so far taken in 110,000 Syrian refugees who fled theconflict at home.
Tovo told a news conference in the capital Amman that the mock wargames were "not connected to any real-world event." "The message that I want to send from this exercise is that we havedeveloped great partners throughout the region and really fromacross the world that have the same interest and that is ensuringthat we have the ability to operate together when called upon byour nation's leadership to meet challenges that are common to ournations," Tovo said. The exercise includes more than 11,000 service members from theMiddle East — excluding Israel and Iran — and from theUnited States, as well as from Europe, Australia, Pakistan andBrunei. Maj. Gen. Awni Edwan, chief of staff for training operations in theJordanian army, said the drill would take place in southern Jordanand that no troops will come near the Syrian border in the north.
"This exercise does not target anyone, none of the neighboring orworld countries," Edwan said, adding that preparations and theselection of the name of the exercise began two years ago —long before last year's Arab Spring revolutions that also inspiredthe Syrian uprising.
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