Tag Archives: Jordan

Ready or not, weather or not

News from Eager Lion 12, the 12,000 strong, 19 nation military exercise being held in Jordan — nothing to do with Syria or Iran, say authorities:  A day of training, the Jordan Times reports, has been canceled because of sandstorms.

It isn’t the only military exercise to be halted on a count of weather: In the nation’s capital, heavy rain and thunderstorms last night halted an air defense exercise by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

May 22 sandstorms in Jordan lead to cancellation of Eager Lion training. Source: Jordan Times

NORAD says that exercise Falcon Virgo is scheduled to take place between 3-5 a.m., will take place on Thursday night instead.

I don’t know whether I’m being an idiot or not — okay, hold the snark — but don’t we want our military to barrel its way through bad weather, especially in an exercise, so that they might be ready to improvise if the real thing came?  Just asking…

Eager Lion Now Supplants Bright Star as Largest U.S. Exercise in Middle East

The details emerging about the Eager Lion 12 military exercise in Jordan are almost as scary as the speculation circulating in the press about a Syria (or Iran) mission preparation.  Jordan and the United States continue to insist that the exercise has no connection with any real-world events.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) now says that the exercise is “the largest annual exercise in the Central Command area of operations,” supplanting Bright Star, the exercise series previously conducted in Egypt.  I guess the masters of war planning have a lot of faith in the stability and resilience of the Jordanian government, come to think of it, just like they did about Egypt.

Eager Lion, which most press reports refer to as including 17 participants, actually includes 19 participants, according to CENTCOM.   They include Australia, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, France, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.  The exercise is touted as “building relationships,” but the 19 nations weren’t named until May 15th: I suppose it’s more like a furtive affair than a relationship.  It’s interesting to note that Turkey, previously reported as participating, evidently is not; and that Iraq is there.

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit offload from a Navy Landing Craft Utility vessel at the Royal Jordanian Naval Base in Aqaba, May 2, 2012, to begin their participation in Exercise Eager Lion 12. (Official Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein)

And though special operations is the undeniable focus, more than 1,000 U.S. Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit stormed ashore – okay maybe didn’t storm, but landed – in a display of amphibious readiness.  What surprised me in the belated announcement of the Marines May 2nd landing is that the Marine Corps casually referred to the augmented battalion and its Iowa Jima assault ship as the “forward-deployed crisis response force.”

I didn’t even know that there was such a crisis response force, and nothing was reported in the news media when it was deployed in March.

The on-scene U.S. commander for Eager Lion 12 is Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, who in his day job is Commander Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and for the exercise is Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Spartan (CJTF Spartan).  Tovo is one of the most talented officers in our Army’s senior ranks and clearly is one of our nation’s Special Operations Forces’ superstars,” CIA Director David Petraeus said in an email to the Tampa Tribune.  There’s an odd hit job on Tovo on Examiner.com, as if anything is actually known about the man.

Jordan is Eager: But For What?

The U.S. and Jordan will hold their largest military exercise ever in May, according to the state-run news agency Petra.

Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of the Marine component of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is in Amman this week meeting with Jordanian military officials to prepare the 17 nation exercise.  One of those participants will be Iraq, sending its military outside the country for the first time.

The theme of the exercise, officials say, is guerrilla warfare and “strategic threats.”

As one Arab commentator asks: “So who exactly will be this “Eager Lion” target?

“Strategic threats”?  “Guerrilla warfare?”

The first Eager Lion exercise in this series – Eager Lion 11/Infinite Moonlight 11.2 – was held last year from June 11-30, and involved 14 other countries spread operating at six locations inside Jordan.  This exercise also focused, according to CENTCOM, on “irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency.”

But behind the scenes, the Army’s 20th Support Command from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland participated.  The official name of the 20th is Support Command (CBRNE) for chemical biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives.  The unit was activated in 2004 to consolidate Army WMD response and search capabilities, and in Eager Lion last year, it held biological warfare identification exercises and radiological and nuclear response and civil defense training.

Military exercises happen all the time – check out my list of exercises – and some might just dismiss all of them and this one as well as routine, opportunities for militaries to get together, familiarize themselves with each other, practice basic skills.  But every exercise of this size also includes so-called “strategic” purpose, a scenario that is generally made up to guide decision-making.  Some country is made up – say Irandia, fighting with another made up country, say Israelandia – and they fight a nuclear war, or some external event in say a place like Syria spreads to Jordan.

Just because Iran, Israel, and Syria are in the news right now, and just because WMD are being bandied about doesn’t necessarily mean that this exercise is intended to mimic an actual real world scenario.  After all, if the focus of this year’s exercise is also counter insurgency, one has got to mention the Palestinian population of Jordan or even the Jordanian people themselves, who might just spring into action someday.  What “skills” do you think the U.S. is sharing?

The reality is that despite all of these questions, Eager Lion is also just an exercise, scheduled each year in the late spring/early summer, one that takes a year to prepare, to schedule the units to participate, to agree on all of the rules and complete all of the paperwork, etc., etc.  In some way, however, it is also the making of foreign policies and the subtle steering of the future.

It once was the case, during the days of Saddam that these U.S.-Jordanian exercises were highly secret, proving cover for preparations for U.S. forces to deploy to Jordan in order to fight Iraq (which they did in 2003).  Saddam is gone now, but the neighborhood is ever more complicated.  I wonder what they are cover for now?

When Does Preparation Become War?

Today in Secret History: February 10

As people continue to fret about an Israeli (or American) attack on Iran, is there some lesson we can learn from pre-Iraq war history?

On February 10, 2003, the main body of the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) arrived at H-5 airfield in the eastern desert of Jordan in preparation for the second Gulf War (All Roads Lead to Baghdad, p. 97), an in-the-shadows unit, in support of a non-existent special operations task force, at a secret base in a classified country.  Though in hindsight it looked like a war to depose Saddam Hussein was a certainty, at the time, there was still quite a public and international debate.

Of course, from Baghdad’s perspective, war seemed more and more certain, what with the accelerated bombing already taking place under the cover of Operation Southern Focus, with CIA and special operations forces inside Iraq, and special operations deployments building up along the Iraqi border in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, not to mention the conventional military deployments centered in Kuwait.  In hindsight, as crazy as it might seem, it looks like everyone’s preferred outcome – everyone in the U.S. and Iraqi governments, that is – was war.

By the time the shooting officially started a month later in mid-March, this secret Joint Special Operations Task Force West (JSOTF-W), also known as Task Force Dagger, had built up to include these special operations helicopters of the 3rd Battalion, the 5th Special Forces Group from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, a company from the Army Reserve 19th Special Forces Group, British and Australian special operations forces, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment, a quick reaction force from the 82nd Airborne Division, a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System [HIMARS] battery, and the even more secret Task Force 20 (TF-20), the black Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) task force given the mission of finding Iraq’s WMD.

According to the official Army special operations history, the Jordanian-based task force had two missions: “deter the launch of Scuds from western Iraq, and support conventional forces in their attack in southern Iraq.”  I love the use of the word deter here: Deter what?  Ignore for a moment that there were no Scud missiles to be found in Iraq anyhow, and certainly none deployed in western Iraq — an intelligence analysis failure that drove a lot of effort — but how does a secret mission deter?   Of course, the sage explanation for the sensitive Jordanian deployments – and Jordan denied the presence of any U.S. military forces in the country – was to keep Israel out of any war, which is to say, to convince Israel that the United States was doing all it could do to prevent Iraqi attack, just as it had done – and failed to do – in 1991.

It’s a head-hurting house of secret cards: a highly visible and officially secret coalition special operations force preparing to infiltrate into a country even prior to the “outbreak” of war.  Retired Gen. Mike Delong, the deputy commander of U.S. forces, says in his autobiography Inside CENTCOM (p. 93) that up to 300 commandos, “dressed as native Iraqis” infiltrated into Iraq prior to March 19.

When the special operations forces found no Scuds, they moved on to Iraqi airfields and Hadithah Dam – which intelligence speculated might be intentionally blown up to flood the Euphrates River valley; again no explosives were found to corroborate such speculation.  Some commandos headed for Saddam’s western palaces, others for suspected WMD sites.  It wasn’t without cost on the U.S. side: Three Rangers were killed at Hadithah in what was probably the first suicide car bombing of the long war.

Did the deployments make war more certain?  Would they have changed the public (or international) debate had they been known?  Do these clandestine special operations undermine or enhance diplomacy?  Why do we fall back on rote words like deterrence when in fact the mission was destruction and prevention?  All good questions still very much unanswered today.

A (Big) Slice of American Foreign Policy

[Originally written January 31, 2012:  I do love lists and I was looking at some budget documents today, and decided to make a list of the military exercise held last year (2011) and planned for this year (2012).  I didn’t want to spend much time and would be happy to take corrections and amplifications.   I’m just interested in getting it out there in case others want to do some investigating.]

Military (and National Security) Exercises 2011-2012

  • Able Warrior 11
  • African Endeavor 12: AFRICOM Command, Control, Communications and Computer (C4) integration exercise.  African Endeavor 11
  • African Lion 12:  AFRICOM.  African Lion 11.
  • Agile Spirit 12:  Black Sea International Force
  • Alam Halfa: U.S.-New Zealand, NZ-sponsored land forces exercise,  central North Island at Linton and Napier, April 26-May 6, 2012.   The new exercise series, according to the New Zealand Herald, builds on the Wellington Declaration signed by the two countries in November 2010.  The U.S. banned joint military training after the ANZUS alliance collapsed in 1984. The ban was lifted in 2009.  (added April 10, 2012)
  • Amalgam Dart 11: NORAD
  • Amalgam Mako 12:  NORAD sponsored U.S.-Canada maritime security exercise, Nova Scotia and Connecticut, May 2012, coinciding with Ardent Sentry 2012.  (added April 30, 2012)
  • Anatolian Falcon 12:  EUCOM U.S.-Turkey two week air training exercise and deployment, Konya AB, Turkey; starting 28 February 2012.  U.S. F-16 aircraft deployed from Germany.  (added February 29, 2012; updated March 8, 2012)
  • Angkor Sentinel: PACOM U.S.-Cambodia bilateral exercise initiated July 2010.   Angkor Sentinel 12, March 13-23, 2012, took place between the United States Army Pacific and the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces and focused on explosive ordnance disposal and peace-keeping skills, featuring training by the Asia Pacific Counter Improvised Explosive Device Fusion Center based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.  (updated March 27, 2012)
  • Angoran Resolve 11
  • Arctic Edge
  • Arctic Gator: January 2012
  • Arctic Zephyr
  • Ardent Sentry 12: NORTHCOM/NORAD CPX and various field training events, May 2-9, 2012For the first time, in May 2012, NORTHCOM and the Mexican military will conduct ARDENT SENTRY 12, a combined Defense Support of Civil Authorities exercise “designed around mutually-agreed objectives,” according to official releases, supposedly a hurricane scenario, but obviously with another agenda.  (updated March 17, 2012; April 30, 2012)
  • Arrcade Fusion 11: EUCOM
  • Artemis Polaris 12: NORTHCOM sponsored Arctic-related table-top exercise, held at NDU in Washington DC, February 21, 2012.  (added April 20, 2012).
  • Artemis Scorch 12:  NORTHCOM sponsored Army North held interagency CBRNE table-top exercise, Colorado Springs, Colorado, February 14-16, 2012.  The scenario included a nuclear device detonated in downtown Chicago. (added April 20, 2012)
  • Atlantic Strike
  • Atlas Accord 12: AFRICOM Mali-based medical exercise conducted in Mopti, Mali, 7-15 February 2012 despite the cancellation of Flintlock 12.  The annual-joint-aerial-delivery exercise, hosted by U.S. Army Africa, brings together Army personnel with militaries in Africa to enhance air drop capabilities and ensure effective delivery of military resupply materials and humanitarian aid. (updated February 11, 2012)
  • Atlas Drop 11: AFRICOM
  • Atlas Vision
  • Austere Challenge 11
  • Balikatan 12:  PACOM U.S.-Philippines CPX, April 16-27, 2012, to be held mainly in Palawan, which faces the South China Sea and lies about 510 miles (820 kilometers) southwest of Manila.  This is the 28th Balikatan exercise in the series. (updated March 8, 2012)
  • Baltops 12: EUCOM.  Baltic Operation 2012 (BALTOPS 12), May 2012, focusing on interoperability.  Participants include Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the United States. (updated May 17, 2012)
  • Beverly Bulldog 12-01: Osan, South Korea exercise series designed to test the base’s response during a wartime contingency.
  • Beyond the Horizon Caribbean 11: SOUTHCOM
  • Beyond the Horizon CENTAM: SOUTHCOM
  • Blue Flag 11
  • Bold Alligator12: Amphibious training exercise
  • Bright Star
  • CARAT Brunei:  U.S.-Brunei maritime and amphibious forces exercise, announced by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in Brunei, April 6, 2012(added April 10, 2012)
  • Capital Shield 12:  Interagency emergency management exercise conducted at Ft, McNair, District of Columbia, and Lorton, Virginia.
  • Citadel Gate 12:  Washington DC-based continuity of operations exercise, with hurricane scenario,  April 16 – 27, 2012.  (added April 20, 2012).
  • Cobra Gold 12:  PACOM sponsored Thailand-based 10 day combat exercise, February 2012, held at at a military base in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand’s Northeast.  Seventeen nations participating, including combat personnel from Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United States.  Other countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, France, Italy, Nepal, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and Vietnam are part of the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT); while Brunei, China and Laos sent observers. (updated February 11, 2012)
  • Cold Response 2012:  Norwegian sponsored biennial multinational invitational exercise focused on rehearsing mid-intensity operations in winter condition.  The US participant, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, draws Marine Corps’ equipment stored in Norway.  The exercise also involves 16,000 troops from 15 other nations, as well as distinguished visitors from Sweden, Japan, and South Korea.  (added March 20, 2012)
  • Combined Endeavor 12:  EUCOM in Slovak Republic.  Combined Endeavor 11.
  • Command Post Exercise (CPX) for Peacekeeping Operations – Americas 2012 (PKO-A 12): Santiago, Chile from April 30-May 11, 2012. (added April 7, 2012)
  • Continuing Promise (CP):  The Continuing Promise mission is to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian civic assistance, medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support, subject matter expert exchange and disaster relief to nine partner nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean.  (added April 29, 2012)
  • Cooperative Archer 11: EUCOM
  • Cooperative Lancer: EUCOM sponsored, hosted by Macedonia combined field training (FTX) and command post exercise (CPX) series.  Designed to test the integration of NATO forces and certain “Partnership for Peace” country defense assets. This is an effort to train NATO partner countries in Crisis Response Operations during scenarios that involve preventing the destabilization of an emerging country. (updated April 17, 2012; thanks to JB)
  • Cooperative Longbow: EUCOM
  • Cooperative Resolve 11: EUCOM
  • Cope Angel:  Annual bilateral search and rescue exercise between the USAF and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
  • Cope North 12-1:  PACOM Guam-based trilateral (US, Japan, Australia) exercise, Andersen AFB, February 11-24, 2012, designed to enhance air operations between the U.S. Air Force, the Japan Air Self Defense Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force.  Cope North 12-1 marked the first trilateral iteration of the exercise. (updated February 11, 2012; updated April 5, 2012)
  • Cope South: PACAF sponsored U.S.-Bangladesh tactical air exercise, Kurmitola Air Base, April 22-26, 2012.  The airlift-focused exercise involved the Kentucky Air National Guard.   (added April 30, 2012)
  • Cope Taufan 12:  PACAF sponsored U.S.-Malaysia biennial air training exercise, April 2-, 2012, in Penang.  The 67th Fighter Squadron from Kadena AB, Japan flew F-15 Eagles against RMAF MiG-29 Fulcrums, F/A-18 Hornets and Hawk 208 aircraft during Cope Taufan.  The exercise is also an opportunity for the 13th Air Force to conduct subject matter exchanges with Malaysian counterparts on subjects as diverse as counter-terrorism and engineering.  (added April 7, 2012)
  • Cope Tiger 12:  PACOM Thailand-based trilateral (U.S., Thailand, Singapore) air training exercise, March 12-23, 2012.  Cope Tiger aims to enhance readiness and combined interoperability between U.S. Forces, allies and partners within the Pacific region. More than 1,600 Airmen and civilians participated in this year’s engagement, including approximately 430 U.S. service members and civilians.  The exercise concluded with a combined exercise parachute jump, the largest in its 18-year history.  (added March 20, 2012; updated April 2, 2012)
  • Cutlass Express: AFRICOM
  • Cyber Storm:  DHS-led, full-scale, cyber security exercise, between international, Federal and State governments, and private sector organizations to exercise their response, coordination, and recovery mechanisms in reaction to simulated cyber events.  The first Cyber Storm exercise was held February 6-10, 2006.  (added March 28, 2012)
  • Cyber Flag:
  • DANEX NOCO 12:  Merger of German Northern Coast and the Danish DANEX exercises.
  • DOD Interoperability Communications Exercise (DICE): March 2012
  • Eager Lion 12: Irregular Warfare themed exercise focused on using the “Whole of Government Approach” in Jordan, 7-28 May 2012.
  • Eager Light 11
  • Eager Lion:  CENTCOM sponsored U.S.-Jordan bilateral exercise involving 19 nations, including Australia, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, France, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.   Reports that Turkey was a participant in the exercise seem to have been erroneous.  Eager Lion 12 is being held May 7-27, 2012.  Includes extensive special operations exchanges and training; as well as an amphibious operations by the 24th MEU.  Eager Lion 11 was held from June 11-30, 2011.   (updated March 7, 2012; May 9, 2012; May 18, 2012)
  • Eagle Resolve 11
  • Early Victor 11
  • Earnest Leader 11
  • Eastern Accord
  • Eastern Action 11
  • Eastern Castle 11
  • Eastern Eagle 11
  • Eastern Piper
  • Eastern Valor 11
  • Eastern Viper 11
  • Ellipse Charlie 11
  • Ellipse Echo 11
  • Emerald Warrior
  • Environmental Thunder:  DOE NNSA-FBI sponsored WMD domestic table top exercise, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park, NC, May 2012. The participating federal agencies included NNSA, FBI, EPA and NIEHS and were joined for the exercise by the Durham County Sheriff’s Office; Durham Health, Emergency Management, and Fire Departments; and the Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department.  State officials from the North Carolina Emergency Management, Public Health, Emergency Medical Services and Highway Patrol also participated, as did the North Carolina National Guard, and Raleigh and Durham city officials. Part of the Silent Thunder series. (added May 11, 2012)
  • Falcon Virgo 12-08:  NORAD air exercise over Washington DC, May 23, 2012 (added May 22, 2012).
  • Flexible Leader 11
  • Flintlock: AFRICOM special operations forces annual exercise.  Exercise Flintlock 12 in Mali was officially postponed in February 2012 because the Malian  military was busy fighting “rebels,” but three U.S. military personnel were killed in a car crash on April 20, 2012, supposedly in Mali under the cover of a special operations training mission.  (updated April 20, 2012)
  • Forging Sabre 11
  • Friendship One 11
  • Frisian Flag:  Dutch-sponsored air training exercise, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, April 18, 2012.  (added April 20, 2012)
  • Frontier Sentinel 12: NORTHCOM  U.S.-Canada.
  • Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarian 11:  SOUTHCOM
  • Fuerzas Commando 11: SOUTHCOM
  • Fused Response 12: SOUTHCOM U.S.-Guyana special operations exercise, March 1-10, 2012. (added March 7, 2012)
  • Garuda Shield:  PACOM U.S.-Indonesia (added April 3, 2012)
  • Global Lightning 11: STRATCOM
  • Global Thunder 11: STRATCOM
  • Gold Eagle 11:
  • Golden Coyote 12:  South Dakota sponsored multinational training exericse, June 9-23, 2012, in its 28th year.  Includes contingents Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Suriname.  (added June 19, 2012)
  • GOMEX Quickdraw:  Tri-lateral exercise between U.S., Mexico, and Canadian Forces in support of the North American Maritime Security Initiative.
  • Garuda Shield: U.S.-Indonesia.  Garuda Shield 11 was a USARPAC and TNI Sponsored Bilateral Exercise HCA ENCAP & CPX mission held in Bagor, Indonesia.
  • Gobi Wolf (Gobi Chuun)
  • Green Flag – West:  Exercises take place 10 times a year. Aircraft and crews fly from Nellis AFB, Nev., in support of ground combat training at Fort Irwin (Barstow), Calif.
  • GridEx 2011:  Government-sponsored North American Electric
    Reliability Corporation run electrical power disruption exercise.  (added March 29, 2012)
  • Immediate Response 12:  EUCOM multinational military exercise, sponsored by U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Air Force, and the Croatian Land Forces, May 26-June 9, 2012, located at training area “Eugen Kvaternik”, Slunj, one of the largest military installations in Croatia.”   The 700 participants come from Albania, Bosnia – Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Slovenia.  Macedonia and Serbia sent observers to the exercise.  (updated May 28, 2012).
  • Inferno Creek 11
  • Initial Link 12:  CENTCOM U.S.-Bahrain biennial exercise, underway since 1988.  Initial Link 12, held at Shaikh Isa airbase in April 2012, involves ten nations — Bahrain, the United States, plus Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan — and is the largest to be held since 1988.  (added April 9, 2012)
  • Inspired Gambit
  • Inspired Venture 11
  • Integrated Advance 11:  SOUTHCOM
  • Internal Look 12:  CENTCOM computer-assisted command post exercise, held February 2012, according to The New York Times, positing an Israeli attack on Iran scenario.  See my Blog on Internal Look. (updated March 21, 2012)
  • Iron Cobra
  • Iron Fist 12:  PACOM bilateral amphibious training event between U.S. and Japanese forces, January 23-February 15, 2012, the seventh annual. Amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) conducted beach and flight operations off the coast of San Clemente Island, with elements from 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. (updated April 5, 2012)
  • Island Thunder:  DOE NNSA-FBI sponsored weapons of mass destruction domestic crisis management table top exercise, part of the Silent Thunder series, held in Hawaii, 29 March 2012. (added May 11, 2012).
  • Jackal Stone 11: special operations
  • Joint Dawn/MRX-12: Army’s Expeditionary Contracting Command exercise, Jan. 19 – Feb. 3, 2012 at Fort Bliss, TX.  Annual forum and exercise to train military and deployable civilian contracting officers in warrior and contracting specific tasks. (added February 11, 2012)
  • Joint Exercise India 11
  • Joint Exercise Indonesia
  • Judicious Response 11: AFRICOM
  • Juniper Cobra: U.S.-Israel
  • Juniper Stallion 11: U.S.-Israel
  • Keen Edge 12: U.S.-Japan.
  • Keen Sword 11
  • Keris Strike: U.S.-Malaysia.  Keris Strike 11 was a USARPAC and Malaysian Army Sponsored Bilateral Brigade Level Peacekeeping Operations Command Post Exercise and MEDCAP Mission held in Melaka, Malaysia
  • Key Resolve/Foal Eagle: PACOM U.S.-South Korea high level decision making exercise, February 27-March 9, 2012; Foal Eagle, a division-sized and lower exercise coincides and extends from March 1-April 30.  (updated March 9, 2012)
  • Khaan Quest: U.S.-Mongolia.  Mongolia Armed Forces and US Marine Forces Pacific sponsored Peace Keeping Operations orientated combined exercise, consisting of an FTX and CPX.
  • Kiwi Flag:  New Zealand-sponsored multinational exercise, March 26-April 4, 2012, based at Whenuapai Airport. RNZAF C-130 Hercules and B200 King Air aircraft will be joined by similar size transport aircraft from other countries for the exercise, which will involve low-level flying and takeoffs and landings at “unfamiliar airfields.” (added March 25, 2012; thanks to JW)
  • Lasting Calm:  Army North (ARNORTH) sponsored Army Soldier Systems Center, Natick, Massachusetts based annual anti-terrorism and force protection exercise, May 10, 2012.  Participants include Natick Police, Natick Fire, the Massachusetts Commonwealth Fusion Center, DHS, FBI, Massachusetts Department of Public Health Radiological Control Unit, and the ARNORTH Defense Coordinating Element. (added May 9, 2012)
  • Lightning Rescue
  • Lion Effort 2012:  Swedish-sponsored multinational exercise for users of the Saab Gripen, based at Ronneby air base in southern Sweden. Involves aircraft from Sweden, Czech Republic, Hungary and South Africa, and personnel from Thailand.  (added March 25, 2012; thanks JW)
  • Malabar:  U.S.-India annual naval exercise.  The 15th Malabar exercise is scheduled for April 7-16 in the Bay of Bengal, and includes the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its escorts the USS Harley and USS Bunker Hill. (added April 5, 2012)
  • Maple Flag
  • Med Accord Central
  • Med Accord South
  • Med Accord West
  • MEDRETE:  Army Africa’s Medical Readiness and Training Exercise (MEDRETE) program; 2012 planned for the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania.
  • Native Fury 12
  • Natural Fire 11
  • NEA 2012:  PACOM U.S.-Vietnam naval exchange activities, April 23-25, 2012.  Includes non-combatant events and skills exchanges in areas such as diving medicine, navigation, and firefighting. Ship visits, band concerts, community service events, and U.S.-Vietnamese navy sporting events.  U.S. units participating in the naval exchange activities include the 7th Fleet’s flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19); the guided missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90); the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50); sailors from Task Force 73; and a Mobile Diving and Salvage Detachment.  (added April 24, 2012)
  • Neon Falcon 11
  • New Horizons Belize
  • New Horizons Haiti 11
  • New Horizons Peru 12: Humanitarian and Civic Assistance (HCA) exercise, focusing on medical readiness training (MEDRETE) and engineering construction projects that will benefit communities in Peru and provide training for United States troops.  Construction projects normally include schools, clinics, community centers, water wells, and other quality of life enhancement facilities.  Medical readiness exercise activities consist of doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinarians and other healthcare professionals providing general and specialized health services.  Projects and activities for New Horizons are scheduled June – August 2012 for the Pisco, Chincha and Huancavelica regions of Peru.  (udpated April 29, 2012)
  • Noble Dina 12: Sixth Fleet sponsored U.S.-Israel classified  submarine and anti-submarine warfare exercise, held in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, March 26-April 5, 2012.  The first Noble Dina is believed to have taken place in 1999 and included a port visit to Israel by the nuclear power attack submarine USS Miami.   Noble Dina 03, held in Jan 2003, included a visit by the USS Deyo (DD 989) to Haifa, the first U.S. combat ship to reportedly dock there in 10 years. The exercise was executed as part of preparations to defend Israel in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (added March 29, 2012)
  • Noble Mariner 2012:  NATO maritime exercise, September-October 2012, scheduled for Toulon, France; mission rehearsal to prepare the next NATO Response Force (NRF) rotation.  (added March 25, 2012; thanks JW)
  • Noble Shirley: Marine Forces Europe (MARFOREUR)
  • Northern Accord
  • Northern Challenge 11
  • Northern Edge 11
  • Obangame Express 12:  AFRICOM, sponsored by Nigeria and held in the Gulf of Guinea, commencing 27 February 2012.  Participating include the United States, Belgium, Spain, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, the Republic of Congo, Benin, Sao Tome & Principe and Togo. (updated February 29, 2012)
  • Pacific Angel 12-2:  PACAF sponsored U.S.-Laos medical and humanitarian exercise, April 2012.  (added April 25, 2012)
  • Pacific Partnership 12:  PACOM U.S.-Indonesia disaster relief
    exercise.  Held throughout the North Maluku province in Summer 2010.  (updated April 3, 2012)
  • Pacific Quickdraw:   Development of procedures to improve coincidental operation, coordination, and communication between the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
  • PANAMAX 11
  • Peace Shield 1:  U.S.-Qatar military exercise, May 2012.  (added May 31, 2012).
  • PHIBLEX 12
  • Phoenix Express 11: AFRICOM multilateral exercise with North African nations, supported by European partners, focusing on maritime security, domain awareness, information sharing and interoperability.
  • PKO Americas: SOUTHCOM
  • Prairie Eagle 12:   Strategic National Stockpile exercise, May 14, 2012, delivering simulated vaccines via a Wyoming ANG C-130 Hercules in conjunction with the Wyoming Department of Health, Wyoming Department of Homeland Security and the Wyoming Highway Patrol.  (added May 22, 2012).
  • Rapid Trident:  Rapid Trident 11 was held 25 July to 5 August 2011 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center (IPSC) in Yavoriv, Ukraine.
  • Red Dragon 12:  June 2012. (added June 8, 2012).
  • Red Flag:  Nellis AFB, Nevada based realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies.  Red Flag 12-4, July 16-27, 2012, includes participants from the UAE (F-16s) and Colombia (KFIRs).  (updated June 19, 2012).
  • Regional Cooperation 11
  • Regional Response 11
  • Resilient Constellation:  National level exercise series focused on private sector partnership with the federal government in critical infrastructure protection.  (added March 27, 2012)
  • Resolute Sentinel 11
  • RIMPAC 12:  Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s largest multi-national maritime exercise, conducted biennially in even years in Hawaii.
  • Ryukyu Warrior 12: Okinawa based disaster response exercise.
  • Saber Guardian
  • Saber Strike 12:  Baltic area.  Includes Latvia.
  • Saharan Express: AFRICOM Naval Forces Africa scheduled and conducted, multilateral combined maritime exercises with West and North African nations, supported by European partners, focusing on maritime security, domain awareness. Saharan Express 2012 (SE-12), 23–30 April 2012, will include a target vessel in vicinity of Dakar, Senegal to facilitate boarding exercises along the coastline of Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania. The vessel will be used as boarding platform to participate in maritime law enforcement and boarding scenarios. (updated March 23, 2012)
  • SALVEX 12:  U.S.-India bilateral salvage exchange (SALVEX) off the coast of Hawaii February 7-13, 2012.  The purpose of SALVEX 12, according to the Pacific Fleet, is to enhance U.S. and Indian bilateral diving and salvage capability in the littoral environment to improve maritime security and humanitarian assistance/disaster response capability.  (added April 5, 2012)
  • Schriever Wargame 2012 International Game:  Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) futures experimentation wargame series, Nellis AFB, Nevada, April 19-25, 2012 to study counter-piracy operations around the Horn of Africa 11 years into the future.  The event includes participants from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and NATO commands. (added April 20, 2012; thanks to Defense Daily).
  • Sea Breeze 11
  • Secure Grid 2011:  DOE, DHS, and DOD sponsored electrical power infrastructure disruption exercise. (added March 29, 2012)
  • Sentry Aloha 12:  Hawaii-based National Guard sponsored air combat training exercise, March 2-8, 2012, involving F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor aircraft of the Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon air national guards.  China oriented? (added April 7, 2012)
  • Shared Accord:  AFRICOM.  Shared Accord 11.
  • Shared Horizons 11
  • Shared Resilience
  • Shared Response 11
  • SIFOREX 12:  Silent Force Exercise, advanced Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) bilateral exercise hosted and administered by the Peruvian Navy with participation of the USN.
  • Silent Warrior 11
  • Silver Eagle 11
  • Silver Scimitar 12
  • Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield 12:  Navy sponsored U.S. based force protection exercise, March 19-24, 2012 (added March 8, 2012)
  • Southern Accord
  • Steadfast Indicator 11
  • Steppe Eagle 11
  • Southern Warrior: AFRICOM
  • Talisman Saber 11: U.S.-Australia warfighting exercise.
  • Terminal Fury 11
  • Tempest Express 11:  Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
  • Tiger Balm: PACOM
  • Tradewinds 12:  SOUTHCOM.  Tradewinds 11
  • Trident Warrior 12
  • Trojan Footprint 11
  • Tropic Twilight 11:  New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) sponsored HADR Exercise in Tokelau designed to exercise and validate NZ Whole of Government response to natural disaster in the Pacific.
  • Turbo CADS 11:  TRANSCOM
  • Turbo Challenge: TRANSCOM
  • Turbo Distribution: TRANSCOM
  • Ulchi Freedom Guardian 11:  Annual ROK-US Military and ROK Government, simulation driven, command transformation-oriented CPX.  Its purpose is to test and validate ROK and U.S. separate and complementary national warfighting
  • Unified Endeavor 12-1 / 12-2:  EUCOM MCTP/MRX, January 16-February 3 (updated February 12, 2012)
  • Unified Quest 12 (added February 6, 2012)
  • Unitas Atlantic
  • Unitas Pacific 12
  • US-Mexico COMEX (Communications Exercise)
  • Vibrant Response:  NORTHCOM JTF-CS sponsored mission rehearsal for the Defense, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosive and Response Force (DCRF) mission, which is assigned in FY 2012 to the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Ft. Polk, LA.  (updated April 3, 2012)
  • Vigilant Eagle 11:  NORAD (U.S.-Canada)-Russian air exercise, August 2011.  Each side practiced tracking, intercepting, and passing control for monitoring and escorting a live-fly, simulated hijacked aircraft into the other’s airspace.  (added March 9, 2012)
  • Vigilant Guard:  Each year, the National Guard conducts four regional VG exercises to help military first-responders unify their
    efforts to support civilian authorities. The NGB is also
    building a special VG exercise to support the 54 States
    and Territories in preparing for larger scale or real world
  • Vigilant Shield 11
  • Virtual Flag 11
  • West African Training Cruise (WATC): AFRICOM.  WATC 11
  • Western Accord: AFRICOM Peacekeeping Operations in sub-Saharan Africa. Implements the reinforcement of African Peacekeeping Capacity Concept.  Western Accord 11.
  • Yama Sakura 12:  U.S.-Japan, January-February 2012.  The Korean Herald reported that USFK personnel belonging to the 8th Army took part in the exercise in Japan for the first time ever.  (updated February 6, 2012)
  • Yudh Abhyas: U.S.-India bilateral exercise, February 2012.  Previous exercise took place in October 2009.

Today in Secret History: January 31

(From my own archives; here’s a DOT.MIL column published at Washingtonpost.com on January 31, 2000.  I was already thinking about Code Names and the cost of secrecy in the Middle East and elsewhere in the post-Cold War, pre-9/11 period.)

Making a Molehill out of a Mountain

William M. Arkin

Last September, the USS Kamehameha pulled into the Jordanian port of Aqaba, the first U.S. Navy submarine ever to visit the Hashemite Kingdom. The next day, the crew “manned the rails” in a solemn ceremony while King Abdullah Bin Al-Hussein and other dignitaries piped aboard and toured the submarine from end to end.

The Navy’s press release announcing the visit stated that the crew participated “in several community relations projects, prepared … for their next underway, and explored the sites in Jordan.”

But Kamehameha is no normal submarine, and the visit was neither tourism nor pomp and circumstance. The purpose was to conduct the very secret “Early Victor” exercise.

Early Victor is just one of hundreds of exercises and operations conducted annually by the U.S. military around the globe. Some are well-known, and most, when they are reported, are portrayed as mom and apple pie opportunities for training and good works.

But more often than not there days, there is a secret side to exercises where little more than some felicitous code name is revealed. It is without a doubt the busiest and most vivid engagement in American foreign policy. Or, I submit, in some ways it is American foreign policy.

The Secrecy Factory

What do Diagonal Glance, Promise Kept, Nectar Bend, and Eager Initiative all have in common? They are not they latest porno websites. They are classified exercises where the who and the where and the why can’t be known. An unclassified fiscal year 2001 Pentagon budget document leaked to washingtonpost.com lists hundreds of such exercises conducted with militaries and police forces and intelligence establishments overseas.

The document provides only a hint as to the day-to-day life of the military machine. The focus, according to sources, is increasingly counter-terrorism, and counter-narcotics, and counter-proliferation, and counter-information. So many cons one wonders who’s being conned, and what commitments are being sown in the name of military preparedness.

Atlas Gate, Dimming Sun, Eastern Eagle, Ellipse Echo, Frequent Storm, Noble Piper, Phoenix Jomini, Sacred Company, Trojan Footprint. All were held in 1999 – the details remain classified. In the coming months, more secret exercises with names like Blue Advance, Clean Hunter, Earnest Leader, Inferno Creek, Inherent Fury, Initial Link, Inspired Gambit, Juniper Stallion, Lucky Sentinel, and Ultimate Resolve will be held.

The mountain of secrets seems to have only gotten bigger with the end of the Cold War.

One has to wonder how many involve operations that by their very existence suggest covert commitments to foreign countries undertaken for the benefit of access to bases or exchanges of information or “training” opportunities.

Early Victors, Late Losers

Back in Jordan, after the bunting was stowed away on the Kamehameha, Navy SEALs emerged from special compartments, joining Jordanian commandos to conduct their annual Early Victor Red Sea exercise.

The Kamehameha is no stranger to secret missions. The nuclear-powered submarine was commissioned in December 1965 to launch Polaris ballistic missiles. For almost 30 years, it stealthily plied the waters of the Atlantic, remaining underwater for as much as 60 days at a time, always ready to fire its nuclear weapons in a moment’s notice at the Soviet Union.

Kamehameha had a good Cold War run, but in July 1992, the aging boat was modified for the post-Cold War era. Its missiles were removed and the spaces converted to accommodate Navy SEALs and divers, with special shelters and underwater vehicles able to stealthily place American commandos on an enemy shore. Exercises like Early Victor in Jordan undoubtedly hone these skills, but at what cost?

Special Operators

Early Victor is one of a dozen classified special forces exercises with Middle East commando units. The grand-daddy of secret operators is Special Operations Command. From its headquarters in Florida, SOCOM as it is called, controls the Navy SEALs and Green Berets and Delta Force elite.

SOCOM has a mind-boggling list of classified exercises and operations: Stablise, Skilled Anvil, Desert Sprint, Elegant Lady, Project 46, Link Acorn, Constant Gate, Able Sentry, Assured Response, Promise Kept, Polar Moon, Utopian Angel, Poise Talon, Operation Maraton, Present Haven, Silver Wake, Guardian Retrieval, Bevel Edge, Shepherd Venture, Joint Anvil, Autumn Shelter, Shadow Express. One wonders how many of these are building covert ties to governments and elites who may prove to be on the wrong side of democratic forces and change in the future.

Human rights activists may focus their ire on the military’s School of the Americas for training tomorrow’s secret policemen and dictators in Latin America, but these are whole extension campuses that get to tutor in utmost secrecy.

The secrecy exists because each of the so-called unified commands, such as SOCOM, sets their own priorities for building relations in their area of responsibility. The number of exercises and secret operations is so large, moreover, it is doubtful that many people, even inside the government, can see the forest for the trees.

Another Foreign Policy

I’m a believer that the more secrecy you have, the more likely you are to get into trouble. If there is even more secrecy in military relationships and exercises today than there was during the Cold War, there has to be a good explanation. Is all the secrecy necessary because our security is at stake as it was in the Cold War? Is it required to thwart countermeasures on the part of potential adversaries? Or is it merely avoidance of public involvement and political oversight?

In the Middle East, secrecy is the product of relationships which operate under the constraint that our friends get to call the shots with regard to candidness. The fact that the U.S. military exercises with Israel and Jordan and Egypt all at the same time makes for local sensitivities. Whether the ostensible benefit really enhances anyone’s security, or human rights, or democratic values, seems hardly considered.

The monarchies and dictatorships of the Middle East (and elsewhere) are not interested in any details of their covert relations with the United States to get out. Thus the regional commands have particularly full plates of secrets they must manage. The web of relationships, regardless of the real return on investment, become its own justification for both the activity and the secrecy. Thus the Pentagon’s mountain of secrets is also a slippery slope.

(This article was originally published January 31, 2000.)