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Myers Meets Saudis, Discusses Military Relationships

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 17, 2005 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met here with his Saudi counterparts to discuss mutual issues March 16.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said the talks were good and furthered the U.S.-Saudi military-to-military relationship.

Myers met with Defense Ministry officials, including Defense Minister Prince Sultan. They discussed military exercises, U.S. training of Saudi forces, and Iraq. It was the chairman's first trip to Saudi Arabia since 2003.

Myers said in an interview following the meetings that the Saudis generally are pleased with the progress being made in Iraq. "A stable Iraq on their border is an advantage to them," he said.

But there is some Saudi trepidation about foreign terrorists being driven from Iraq and "looking for a home" in Saudi Arabia, the general said. There have been several terrorist attacks launched in the kingdom in the past year, and Osama bin Laden has established al Qaeda cells in the country. Saudi police and National Guard forces have been seeking out the al Qaeda cells and captured four suspected terrorists recently, said embassy officials.

Myers said the Saudis discussed what they could do to tighten their country's long border with Iraq and suggested some things the Americans can help the Iraqis do to control crossings on their side.

But normal military-to-military relations dominated the talks. Since the end of Operation Southern Watch, the relationship has been based on training and exercises, the general said. About 500 U.S. troops are in Saudi Arabia helping to train the Saudi National Guard and the regular Saudi armed forces.

The United States and Saudi Arabia will conduct regular exercises. "We have some air exercises scheduled in Saudi happening soon," the general said. Other exercises will be held in conjunction with other Persian Gulf countries, and still others will happen in the United States.

The exercises run the gamut from command post exercises involving few troops to larger ones featuring military forces. The Saudis said they would like to hold exercises featuring ground forces. Myers said the United States would like to do that also, but noted the Saudis understand U.S. ground forces are committed elsewhere right now.

He said he expects the Saudis will at least send military observers to the Bright Star '05 exercises in Egypt later this year.

The U.S.-Saudi military relationship goes back to a meeting between Saudi's King Abdul Aziz and President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in 1944. Since then, thousands of Saudis have trained in the United States.

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Biographies:
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Related Sites:
State Department Background Notes on Saudi Arabia



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