Qatari and US paratroopers held a joint training exercise in crisis-hit Doha today which American officials said reinforced “the enduring military-to- military” partnership between the two countries. The “Friendship Jump” comes at a time of high political tension in the Gulf, where a boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain has entered its third month.
More than 40 paratroopers took part in the routine exercise, jumping from a C-130 transport aircraft, according to a statement from the US Special Operations Command Control. The training “is indicative of the strong relationship between our two countries”, said Colonel David Keesy, senior defence official for the US Embassy in Qatar.
“This is part of a multi-spectrum, training evolution that is indicative of the mil-to-mil relationships and partnership and cooperation between the US and Qatari militaries.” Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Qatar on June 5 over accusations of state support for Islamist extremist groups and close ties to Shiite Iran.
Qatar denies the allegations. The crisis has proved a diplomatic thorn in the side of the United States, which is an ally to all four Gulf nations. There have been mixed messages from Washington, with President Donald Trump appearing to back the Saudis but with the State and Defence departments being more cautious.
Washington has a huge military base in Qatar and a naval base in Bahrain. Today’s US-Qatari military exercise is the second since the onset of the Gulf crisis, following naval exercises in June.