October 20, 2011

Pakistani, Saudi forces participate in joint anti-terrorism drill

By Yasir Rehman in Islamabad

For Al-Shorfa.com
2011-10-14


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     Pakistan and Saudi soldiers participate in an anti-terrorism exercise October 6 near Jhelum. Two platoons of Pakistani and Saudi troops took part. [Yasir Rehman]

Pakistan and Saudi soldiers participate in an anti-terrorism exercise October 6 near Jhelum. Two platoons of Pakistani and Saudi troops took part. [Yasir Rehman]

A long convoy of military vehicles was passing through a mountainous area noted for militant activity. As it reached "Shah Dheri" October 6th, "militants" hiding in a three-storey compound attacked, turning the area into hotbed of cross-fire and bomb blasts.

Several hundred feet above the "battle," the military leaders of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia observed AL-SAMSAAM-IV-2011, a joint anti-terror exercise.

Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Bandar, chief of the Saudi land forces, brought together their combat troops to improve the anti-militancy skills of both countries in rugged mountainous terrain.

The exercise was primarily for ground troops, but included air support with two F-7 fighters, Cobra and MI-17 helicopters.

The wide-ranging, three-week exercise began September 26th near the eastern town of Jhelum.

The countries have conducted the exercises biennially since 2004 and they take turns hosting them.

"The exercise basically aims to improve co-ordination between the two militaries with a view to future anti-terrorism tasks," Pakistani Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Khalid Nawaz told centralasiaonline.com.

It includes operations in urban areas against hypothetical terrorists.

"This exercise is a departure from previous conventional exercises and is now focused on sub-conventional low-intensity conflict, which reflects the challenges being faced by armies across the globe," he said.

     Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani (left) and Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Bandar, chief of Saudi land forces, discuss tactics as they observe a joint anti-terrorism drill October 6 near Jhelum. [Yasir Rehman]

Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani (left) and Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Bandar, chief of Saudi land forces, discuss tactics as they observe a joint anti-terrorism drill October 6 near Jhelum. [Yasir Rehman]

The operation aims to share knowledge through a comprehensive training programme in real time, Lt. Col. Farooq Ahmed, Pakistani army spokesman, said.

"This will also include combined training at unit and brigade level to practice drills and procedures in low-intensity conflict operations," he said. "The exercise will enhance the combat efficiency of participating troops in counter-terrorism operations."

The drills give participants a chance to benefit from each other's experience, Bandar said.

The exercises are meant to help the armies of two countries improve their relations, Kayani said, adding Saudi Arabia has played an important role in maintaining peace in the region, especially in Afghanistan.

"There are not too many countries that have successfully dismantled and muzzled terrorism as Saudi Arabia has done," Abdul Rehman Al-Sharif, an Arab journalist working for Saudi public TV, said.

"The Saudi government dedicated a great deal of money to the issue and employed both hard-security methods and softer tactics," he said. "This included arrests, better intelligence, amnesties, and counter-radicalisation programmes, as well as efforts by the governing and religious establishments to mobilise the population against terrorist activities."

In February 2009, Saudi Arabia released the names of its 85 most wanted terror suspects, shortly after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emerged from a union of the Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda affiliates. The list includes 83 Saudi nationals and two Yemenis, 66 of whom are at large today. It includes suspects outside Saudi Arabia whom Riyadh most wants to bring back for prosecution. This January, Saudi authorities named 47 additional suspects to its new most-wanted list.

Riyadh considers terrorists in Yemen a major threat. In August 2009, AQAP, based in Yemen, tried to assassinate Saudi Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the head of Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism efforts. Prince Nayef has survived four assassination attempts linked to Yemeni-based militants.


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