AMMAN, Jordan, May 19 (UPI) -- The United States joined 17 other nations -- many of which are allied in the fight against Islamic State forces -- for annual war games in the Jordanian desert, according to officials.
Known as "Exercise Eager Lion 2015," the operation is described by U.S. Central Command as an "annual, multinational exercise designed to build interoperability, promote partnerships and exchange military expertise among the 18 partner nations and NATO." Eager Lion '15 began nearly a week ago and ended today.
The exercise saw U.S. Marines from Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment on May 14 training with Jordanian and British troops in close-quarters marksmanship, urban combat and breaching of barbed-wire positions. On May 15, U.S. Special Forces operators practiced fast-roping from helicopters at the Prince Hashim Royal Air Base. On Tuesday, Jordanian and U.S. forces practiced coordinating for amphibious landings.
Video of the exercises shows tanks and helicopters firing projectiles and maneuvering through the kingdom's desert.
Many of the participating nations are also members of the U.S.-led bombing coalition against IS forces in Syria and Iraq. Known as "Operation Inherent Resolve," the coalition comprises Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, which have conducted airstrikes on IS positions in Iraq, while Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have conducted air attacks in Syria. Jordan, Canada and the United States have participated in airstrikes in both countries, according to CENTCOM.
The exercise comes as Islamist militants make gains in both Syria and Iraq. On Sunday, assaulting IS fighters forced Iraqi soldiers and police in Ramadi to abandon their positions along with military gear, including artillery and several vehicles, while a series of allied Islamist groups -- including al-Qaida's Nusra Front -- recently seized every major urban stronghold in Syria's Idlib province.
U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, in April said that "coalition contributions are directed at achieving success in our mission, which is to degrade and ultimately defeat" IS. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told troops during a recent visit to the region that a lasting defeat of the group could only be achieved by local forces, who he said "must take the lead and take responsibility."