Ever since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
started winding down, the U.S. Navy has
increased its focus on and presence in the
Asia-Pacific. And while Southeast Asia has
been a priority for the Navy, with the grow-
ing influence of China and other nations in
the region, the Middle East and West Asia
remain key parts of that shift.
One recent exercise that took place in the North
Arabian Sea led by the Pakistani Navy shows just how
the focus in the region has changed for the U.S. Navy
over the years.
AMAN 2017, a large, biennial, multinational exercise
that this year featured participants from 37 countries,
including the United States, Russia and China, ran
from Feb. 10-14. In its sixth iteration, the focus of this
year’s exercise was on maritime security, especially
counterpiracy and counterterrorism.
Lt. Cmdr. Rick Chernitzer, a Navy spokesman at
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, said
in an e-mail that the dock landing ship USS Comstock
took part in AMAN 2017, joining other vessels from
the United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, Sri Lanka,
Indonesia and Pakistan during an international fleet
review conducted in a maritime exercise with the
Pakistani supply ship PNS Nasr. The ship also hosted
a member of the Pakistani Navy for “professional
exchanges with Comstock watchstanders,” he added.
“AMAN 17 presented a valuable opportunity for
Comstock Sailors to strengthen their own professional
knowledge, gain experience in working with other
maritime professionals and help reinforce regional
relationships,” he said. “The U.S. is committed to
working with regional partners and allies to enhance
mutual capabilities in order to address threats to freedom of navigation and international commerce.
“AMAN 17 is just one of many exercises that
demonstrate the strong and vital link of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership in ensuring stability in the
region. Our forces are focused on cooperatively engaging with any and all participating nations to share
knowledge and experiences,” he said.
Comstock is deployed as part of the Makin Island
Amphibious Ready Group in the Fifth Fleet area of
operations. The ship supports maritime security operations to “reassure allies and partners, and preserve
freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce
in the region,” Chernitzer said.
Turkey and Russia were first-time participants,
creating an interesting dynamic in this year’s exercise
due to the latter’s complicated relationship with the
United States in recent years.
John Schaus, a fellow in the International Security
Program at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, said AMAN 2017 appears to be fairly consistent with a lot of other large multinational exercises in
which the U.S. Navy participates. The Navy takes part
in them because it wants to get a better understanding
of how other navies operate, so that they will be able to
better communicate and interact with each other when
real-world situations arise.
While it’s hard to nail down the number of exercises the Navy participates in each year, as it depends
on how one defines an exercise, the service certainly
has become involved in a lot of them around the world
with many different navies in recent years. And the
exercises themselves seem to grow with each iteration,
as AMAN has done since its inception in 2007, when
Bangladesh, China, France, Italy, Malaysia, the United
Kingdom and the United States brought a total of 14
ships to the exercise.
“It is a general trend that exercises tend to grow
in terms of number of participants over time,”
Schaus said, while adding the caveat that it tends to
be more of a gradual change year over year than a
WEST ASIA STILL IN FOCUS
AMAN 2017 SHOWS HOW PRIORITIES HAVE
CHANGED FOR THE U.S. NAVY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
BY DANIEL P. TAYLOR, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 38 SEAPOWER APRIL 2017
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