Saudi Arabia, Riyadh: Saudi Arabia is set to hold what has been described as the “largest” military exercise, which will see contingents from 20 countries, including Pakistan. Locally known as Ra’ad Al-Shamal, which translates to “Thunder of the North,” the military exercise will include fighter jets, artillery, tanks, infantry, air defense systems and naval forces, according to the Saudi Press Agency. Troops from the participating countries started arriving in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, the report said. It is, however, not clear when the exercise will begin.
“The drills represent a clear message that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its brothers and friends of the participating countries stand united to confront all challenges and maintain peace and stability in the region,” the official news agency said. The exercise comes months after Saudi Arabia announced a 35-member coalition of Muslim nations to fight terrorism in the region. The military exercise also largely involves troops from Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as African nations of Chad, Sudan and Tunisia.
The exercise is meant to “enhance fighting abilities, increase coordination between countries and facilitate the exchange of information and experience,” a defense official was quoted as saying by Saudi Gazette. The first meeting of the Saudi-led anti-terror coalition is likely to take place in March. Saudi Arabia is currently involved in a military offensive against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and has also said that it was “ready to send both jets and troops” to Syria to support groups fighting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s troops.