The United States and Israel have decided to push back their joint training drill from this spring to the second half of 2012, although a specific reason was not given for the delay. US European Command spokesman Capt. John Ross, in an email statement received by The Mideast Update, said there were a number of unspecified reasons behind the change for the Austere Challenge 12 drill.
“It is not at all uncommon for routine exercises to be postponed,” said Ross. “There were a variety of factors at play in this case, but in general, leaders from both sides believe that optimum participation by all units is best achieved later in the year.”
Israel news website Ynet said that concerns about exacerbating tensions with Iran played a role in the shift. The Mideast Update did not independently confirm the report. The US and the IDF had previously attempted to nullify any connection between the exercise and the current situation involving Iran’s nuclear program, saying the drill was “not in response to any real-world event.”
In his most recent statement describing the postponement of the drill, Ross noted the decision was made “following close consultation” between the US and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
He also emphasized that despite the delay, the US and Israel still are planning on carrying out the drill. “We remain dedicated to this exercise and naturally want it to be as robust and as productive as it can be,” said Ross. “Further details will be released in due course.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 16, 2012)