KT Exclusive: UAE-US military partnership remains strong, says top American commander

Two countries are working together to combat new threats: General Erik Kurilla



AP
AP
by

Anjana Sankar

Published: Wed 17 Aug 2022, 4:37 PM

Last updated: Wed 17 Aug 2022, 5:33 PM

The UAE and the US are working together to combat new threats emanating from the region, including the use of drones by some proxies, said the top US military commander for the Middle East, Central Asia, and parts of South Asia, in an exclusive interview to Khaleej Times.

General Erik Kurilla, Commander of the US Central Command, who was in the UAE this week, said he discussed “opportunities for increased military cooperation” between the armed forces of the two countries.

Stressing the importance of the US-UAE military partnership, General Kurilla said the Central Command is “firmly committed to stability in the region.”

General Kurilla met the UAE Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Hamad Mohammed Thani Al Rumaithi in Abu Dhabi on August 15.

“General Rumaithi and I share many of the same concerns and many of the same goals. For example, we both seek to defend against drone attacks on our forces. This is an area in which we must continue to improve because the technology behind these attacks continues to improve,” he said.

“My discussions affirmed the strength of our bond with the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. This partnership is manifest on land, in air, and at sea, and has great potential in innovation on both sides,” he said.

Drone attack on US military base in Syria

General Erik Kurilla’s statement came within a day after a joint US coalition base in eastern Syria was hit by two rockets on Monday night. No one was hurt and no damage was reported in the incident, according to the US Central Command. The rockets struck near the Green Village base jointly operated by the US and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Earlier on the day, the US outpost at al-Tanf on Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan, also came under attack by multiple armed drones, according to a coalition statement.

The UAE had also endured the drone in January this year, when the Houthis, an Iran-backed militia in Yemen, fired a number of ballistic missiles and drones at the UAE. Three people were killed at the state-owned oil firm ADNOC in Abu Dhabi. The subsequent weeks saw three more attacks, which the UAE authorities said they intercepted.

The Houthis, who claimed responsibility for the attack, said it was in retaliation to the UAE’s involvement in Yemen as part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting the militia.

The Houthis had also, in the past several years, targeted major Saudi cities, including Taif, Jeddah and Riyadh, with dozens of drones and cruise and ballistic missiles.

The UAE and the US have long accused Iran of launching a proxy war and destabilizing the region by arming and supporting militant groups like Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

A US military official, who is in the know of the Green Village incident, told Khaleej Times that the two rockets recovered from four rocket tubes five kilometres from the base were 107mm Multiple Rocket Launchers. The rocket is traditionally used by Iran, according to experts though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

US is committed to stability in the Middle East

Stressing the importance of the US-UAE military partnership, General Kurilla said the Central Command is “firmly committed to stability in the region.”

“During his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, President Biden stated that the United States must not allow a vacuum in the Middle East for China or Russia to exploit. Integrating and innovating with partnered forces such as the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces demonstrates this commitment,” he said.

“My discussions (on Monday) affirmed the strength of our bond with the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. This partnership is manifest on land, in air, and at sea, and has great potential in innovation on both sides,” he said.

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The General said that the reduction in forces in the Middle East had not lessened their commitment to the region. He said though no massive number of American forces, ships, air defence systems, or planes were required while they were engaged in conflicts in the region, “resources have never defined our partnerships.”

“Our partnerships are defined by exercises, training, operations, sharing of intelligence, foreign military sales, and innovation, to name just a few. And, make no mistake, CENTCOM is committed to the region. In this commitment, we have the backing of American leadership,” he reiterated.


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