Gulf force begins war games in Kuwait

AFP , Sunday 10 Feb 2013

Amid mounting regional unrest, joint Gulf force, the Peninsula Shield, begins a 17-day war games exercise

Joint Gulf force the Peninsula Shield began a 17-day exercise in Kuwait on Sunday as officials said the war games were not related to unrest in the region.

"The exercise was prescheduled and agreed for years. It is unrelated to any regional or political events," the head of Kuwaiti army public relations, Brigadier Abdulaziz al-Rayes, was cited as saying by the KUNA news agency.

It aims at "activating the concept of joint defence... and implementing the unified defence strategy of the Gulf Cooperation Council states," he said.

The main part of the exercise will take place in the Kuwaiti desert, but naval and air forces will also feature in the manoeuvres slated to end on February 26, coinciding with Kuwait's national day celebrations.

General Rayes did not give details of troop numbers taking part, but did say the exercise would include units from Kuwait's national guard and the interior ministry.

Kuwait marks its 51st independence from Britain on February 25 and the 22nd anniversary of liberation from seven months of Iraqi occupation on February 26 in which units from the Peninsula Shield took part.

The Peninsula Shield force was formed by the six GCC member states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- in 1982 as a 5,000-strong force but has since expanded to more than 30,000 troops.

Two years ago, Peninsula Shield troops were deployed in Sunni-ruled Bahrain to help the kingdom's security forces confront protests led by the Shiite majority.

Kuwait has witnessed street protests in the past several months by opposition groups calling for the dissolution of the pro-government parliament elected on December 1 after the emir amended a controversial electoral law.

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