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U.S., Middle East Forces Wage Huge War Game

Some 10,000 troops from the U.S., Jordan and 15 other countries in the region are preparing to launch the first-ever live-fire drill involving air, land, marine and special forces operating as a joint task force.

The three-week exercise — dubbed Eager Lion 2012 — will begin here May 9 under the command of U.S. Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Central Command and his Jordanian counterpart, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Jeridad, director of Jordan’s Training and Doctrine Command.

Traditionally an annual bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Jordan, this year’s Eager Lion marks the first time forces throughout the region with the exception of Syria — will train for irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency under a coordinated joint task force.

Forces will be deployed throughout the Hashemite Kingdom, including near the border with Syria and in the Gulf of Aqaba across from Israel.

War-game planners insist the scenario developed for the game is fictitious, and is not directed at any particular enemy.

The fictitious theater of operations spreads across three countries — all within Jordanian borders — and involves combined-arms land forces, fixed-wing air power, utility and attack helicopters and a U.S. Marine expeditionary unit. The drill will also feature a simulated chemical spill to enable first responders to hone emergency management skills, sources here said.

“We carved up the Kingdom to simulate three countries, with blue, red and orange land forces all operating within sovereign Jordanian territory,” one war game participant told Defense News.

He added, “We understand that there’s a lot of speculation given the regional instability, but this has been in the planning for a long time and is not aimed at any specific country or event.”

Much of the pre-drill training is being conducted at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center, a state-of-the-art facility funded jointly by the U.S. and Jordan.

The event will be last through May 28, and its kickoff was timed to coincide with the 6th annual Middle East Special Operations Commanders Conference, which took place May 7.