US military cuts drills with Gulf allies as Qatar crisis drags on

#GulfTensions

Central Command says it has cut a number of exercises with Gulf allies in the interests of 'inclusiveness' amid Saudi-led dispute with Doha

US and Kuwaiti soldiers during the Eagle Resolve exercise in April (AFP)
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Friday 6 October 2017 13:40 UTC
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The US military has halted a number of exercises with its Gulf allies in the interests of "inclusiveness" amid a Saudi-led diplomatic crisis targeting Qatar, commanders were reported as saying on Friday.

A spokesman for Central Command, which runs US operations in the Middle East, were quoted by the Associated Press as saying that it was cutting back on exercises.

We are opting out of some military exercises out of respect for the concept of inclusiveness and shared regional interests

- US Central Command

"We are opting out of some military exercises out of respect for the concept of inclusiveness and shared regional interests," said John Thomas, a US air force colonel.

"We will continue to encourage all partners to work together toward the sort of common solutions that enable security and stability in the region."

While offering few details, the acknowledgement shows US military concern over the ramifications of the Gulf crisis, and potential effects on the battle against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
 
The Qatar crisis began on 5 June, when Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched an economic boycott and closed Qatar's air and sea routes over its alleged support of "extremists" and ties to Iran. Qatar denies the charges.
 
The blockade began days after US President Donald Trump delivered a speech in Saudi Arabia encouraging Gulf nations to crack down on extremism.
 
US military officials initially said the dispute had no impact on their operations. Qatar is home to the al-Udeid airbase, the forward headquarters of Central Command.
 
Trump appeared to take sides in the dispute, stating in a series of posts on Twitter accusing Qatar of funding terrorism, and apparently taking credit for encouraging the blockade.

He later suggested he was prepared to act as "mediator", and claimed he could secure a "quick deal" to end the dispute.

Trump's defence secretary, Jim Mattis, has also travelled to Doha to offer his support, while the US also agreed the sale of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar for $12bn.

Officials in Qatar did not immediately respond to AP's request for comment on the US announcement on military drills, while the boycotting nations have not acknowledged the disruption in military exercises.

Among the exercises likely to be affected is Eagle Resolve, an annual exercise held since 1999. This year's Eagle Resolve exercise, held in Kuwait in March, involved 1,000 US troops.

US and Gulf allies have regularly held joint, smaller-scale exercises in the region.