Hagel Visit Follows Large Saudi Military Drill

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the Middle East comes on the heels of an unprecedented unilateral military drill by Saudi Arabia, according to Middle East press reports. Abdullah’s Shield, which concluded at the end of April, was reportedly the largest military exercise in the kingdom’s history with some 130,000 Saudi defense personnel participating in activities across the country, reported the Arab News. Mechanized armor units, air defenses, and combat aircraft were included in the events, which culminated with a military parade in northeast Saudi Arabia at which the Saudis reportedly displayed their Dong Feng-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles publicly for the first time. Saudi Chief of Staff Gen. Hussain al Qubail, said the exercise took place to raise the “training level of our forces” and to test their “preparedness to deter enemy attacks,” reported the Gulf News. Officials at US Central Command confirmed to Air Force Magazine that no US forces participated in the exercise.