Defense

US halts some military exercises over Qatar crisis

The United States has halted some war games with Gulf Arab allies over the ongoing crisis in Qatar in an attempt to use its influence to end the dispute, The Associated Press reported Friday.

"We are opting out of some military exercises out of respect for the concept of inclusiveness and shared regional interests," Col. John Thomas, a Central Command spokesman, told the wire service in a statement. "We will continue to encourage all partners to work together toward the sort of common solutions that enable security and stability in the region."

The affected exercises are not specified, but could include Eagle Resolve, annual training held since 1999 with Gulf Cooperation Council and American forces. This year's Eagle Resolve was held in Kuwait in March and involved about 1,000 U.S. troops.

The Gulf crisis started in June when a Saudi Arabia-led group of countries, including Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, cut ties with Qatar and imposed a de facto blockade by cutting off all sea and air traffic.

The Saudi bloc charged that Qatar backs terror groups, which it denies. The countries are also bothered by Qatar's relationship with Iran.

Qatar's capital of Doha is home to al-Udeid Air Base, the United States' largest base in the Middle East, the forward headquarters of Central Command and the staging area for much of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Additionally, the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain.

Initially, U.S. officials insisted that the Gulf split would have no affect on the military operations in the region.

But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said the crisis was "hindering" the fight against ISIS and Central Command acknowledged long term planning at al-Udeid was being affected.

U.S. officials have tried to play mediator in the dispute, most recently in a meeting President Trump had with the emir of Qatar during the United Nations General Assembly last month. Trump also met at the White House last month with the emir of Kuwait, which has taken the lead in attempts to mediate.

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