US halts military exercises with Gulf allies over Qatar crisis
The United States has halted some military exercises with Gulf allies in a bid to end the months-long blockade of Qatar by a Saudi-led coalition.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with their Shia rival Iran.
Doha, however, vehemently denies the claims.
Qatar is home to the massive al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of Central Command which oversees the US-led coalition's bombing campaign of the Islamic State group and manages a direct line to Russia to manage Syria's crowded skies.
"We are opting out of some military exercises out of respect for the concept of inclusiveness and shared regional interests," Air Force Col. John Thomas, a Central Command spokesman said 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," he added, according to The Associated Press.
Among the exercises likely to be affected is Eagle Resolve, an annual exercise held since 1999 that has GCC countries send forces alongside Americans to simulate working as a multinational force in battle.
This year's Eagle Resolve exercise, held in Kuwait in March, involved 1,000 US troops. US and Gulf allies have regularly held joint, smaller-scale exercises in the region
The blockading nations have not acknowledged the disruption in military exercises with the US, while officials in Qatar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As the blockade on Qatar escalated, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis travelled to Doha to offer his support.
The Trump administration also agreed to an in-the-works sale of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar for $12 billion.