International military drills involving 32 armed forces begin in Jordan

The exercises will focus on a wide range of capabilities from dealing with weapons of mass destruction to humanitarian aid

Saudi troops participate in the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan. SPA
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Military forces from across the Middle East are joining US troops on exercises in Jordan with the launch of Eager Lion, a 32-country drill focused on counter-terrorism, counter-drone operations and how to respond to weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs.

The US Central Command, Washington's military headquarters in the Middle East, said the training would also focus on humanitarian operations.

“Eager Lion 24 will focus on training participating partners on co-operation and interoperability between military and inter-agency organisations,” the US military said on Sunday.

“This year’s scenario will address regional challenges across air, land, sea and cyber domains, as well as support of multinational disaster response operations and humanitarian aid assistance.

The Saudi Press Agency published photos of Saudi M1A1 tanks and Bradley armoured vehicles taking part in the exercises.

“The exercise will train participants to prepare against cyber threats from fictitious adversaries, advance the development of partnered counter-terrorism skills, expand integrated air and missile defence synchronisation, and sharpen proficiencies in maritime and border security,” the US military command said.

Col Mustafa Al Hiyari, a spokesman for the Jordanian military, said the drills had “nothing to do with regional developments”, although the US has co-ordinated with Amman and other countries in the region dropping aid from cargo planes into Gaza.

Jordan also said it had shot down some of the several hundred drones and missiles fired by Iran at Israel on April 14, with the government confirming that its forces shot down “foreign objects in Jordanian airspace”.

King Abdullah II said Jordan would “not be a battlefield for any party, and the protection of Jordanians comes above all else”.

Eager Lion is intended to help fight “terrorist organisations” and respond to “the proliferation of drones, and biological, chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction”, as well as major disasters, Col Al Hiyari said.

He said the exercises that began on Sunday were the largest since the first Eager Lion in 2011, and aimed “to confront the emerging and cross-border threats of this era”.

Countries participating include Poland, Norway, Romania, Japan and Australia, alongside several Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Morocco and Lebanon.

The previous Eager Lion exercise in September 2022 included about 2,200 Jordanian soldiers, 1,700 from the US and a total of 400 more from 27 other countries.

Updated: May 14, 2024, 4:47 AM