As rockets from Gaza have continued to explode in southern Israel over the past few days, the United States and Israel continue to hold their largest ever joint military drill.
The exercise, codenamed “Austere Challenge 12” and hosted by Israel, is aimed at improving the combined fighting capabilities of the two countries. Officials have said the latest attacks from Gaza will not have a bearing on the drill.
US Lieutenant General Craig Franklin:
“As I have said before, AC (Austere Challenge) 12 exercises between our two militaries has been two years in the making. Undoubtedly the exercise scenario was clearly driven by the overall situation in the Middle East, but, and I must stress this, it is not related to any specific current event in the region.”
According to the US military, about 3,500 US officers and men are participating alongside 1,000 troops from Israel. Soldiers have spoken of camaraderie at the joint Israel-US cooperation.
American Missile Defence Commander Mira Thornton:
“We, you know, coordinated and passed along a lot of information we can’t talk about, but I will say that I am glad that I got to meet her and the rest of the Israeli partners. Her being a battery commander and myself being a battery commander, we have a common bond and goal. And we love our troops, so I think that at the end of the day we want to make sure that they are trained and taken care of, and that is what we do.”
The US military will spend about USD 30 million and the Israeli military is contributing nearly USD 8 million on the exercise that will continue for a further two weeks, and whose relevance has only been heightened by recent events.