AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan and the United States kicked off annual military exercises Sunday known as “Eager Lion,” with about 7,400 troops from more than 20 nations taking part, officials said.
US and Jordanian officials said the maneuvers would include border security, cyber defense, and “command and control” exercises, to bolster coordination in response to threats including terrorism.
“Joint efforts and coordination and the exchange of expertise… are needed at the time when the region is facing the threat of terrorism,” Jordanian Brigadier General Khalid al-Shara, who will head the exercises, told reporters.
US Major General Bill Hickman, deputy commanding general for the American army in the region, said this year’s “Eager Lion” exercises — the seventh so far — are “the largest and most complex to date.”
The highlight of this year’s exercise, he said, will be that “for the first time ever a global strike mission” will be conducted by “two US Air Force B-1B bomber aircraft” — a long-range multi-mission bomber.
A statement by the Jordanian army said troops from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Arab Gulf region are taking part in the exercises which run to May 18, including from Britain, Japan, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.
About 6,000 troops from Jordan and the US took part in last year’s exercises — a joint operation first launched in 2011.
Jordan is a key recipient of US financial aid and a partner in the US-led coalition battling Islamic State group jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
US forces have trained a small group of vetted Syrian rebels in Jordan, and American instructors have trained Iraqi and Palestinian security forces in Jordan as well over the past few years.
Two years ago, the United States announced its intention to increase overall US assistance to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion annually for the 2015-2017 period.