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Mideast Military Exercises a Priority, Cohen Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

AMMAN, Jordan, April 5, 2000 – The U.S. military exercise program with Jordan will grow, said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, adding bilateral and multilateral military exercises would make the Middle East a more stable place.

Cohen met with Jordanian Prime Minister-Defense Minister Abdur-Rauf Rawabdeh and Army Lt. Gen. Mohammed Malkawi, Jordan's military joint chiefs chairman. Cohen is traveling in Africa, the Middle East and Persian Gulf region through April 12.

More U.S. service members may be participating in exercises in Jordan. For example, more than 2,000 U.S. Marines and their Jordanian counterparts staged the combined arms tactical exercise Intrinsic Moonlight in March in the area around Aqabah.

Cohen discussed bilateral and multilateral exercises with the Jordanian leaders. He pointed to Jordan’s participation in Exercise Bright Star in October 1999 as an example of the types of contact the exercises bring and the types he would like to see increased.

“We had 11 nations participating in Bright Star and 26 observers,” he said. “I would expect there to be more next year.”

He told reporters he hoped to see greater exercises involving the United States, Jordan, Israel and Turkey and said he thinks it’s in everyone’s interest to train together. Jordan has exercised with Turkey and the United States in the past.

The possibility of Jordanian-Israeli exercises also has been under discussion for a while, a senior U.S. official said.

The benefits of the exercises go beyond simply good training. Any exercise the United States joins in Jordan involves some community development. Navy medics and Seabees have been prominent contributors.

“Sometimes, it’s running community clinics in the poorest parts of the country, sometimes it’s in small-scale construction projects, water projects,” the senior U.S. official said. “We always try to build that into exercises because it is an opportunity for us to take advantage of the skills and resources that come along on an exercise.”

Other U.S. military help comes to Jordan from the Army Corps of Engineers, which helps the Jordanians with water projects.

“Most of the U.S. Agency for International Development money goes into water projects,” the U.S. official said, noting Jordanian water consumption per capita is one- fortieth that of the United States and one-third that of Israel. "Water scarcity is a bigger and bigger problem as you look down the road for Jordan and a bigger and bigger drag on economic development.”

The projects will run the gamut from improving water treatment facilities to rehabilitating wells.

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Related Sites:
DoD News Briefing: Press Conference with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in Amman, Jordan
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