The longstanding, decades-old bilateral exercise between U.S. and Thai forces is scheduled to kick off early next month, despite ongoing military rule in Thailand, according to a release this week from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.
Cobra Gold 2016 is set to start on Feb. 9 to 19 and will place an emphasis on low-level military operations.
“This year, Cobra Gold will strengthen regional cooperation and collaboration, increasing the ability of participating nations to work together on complex multilateral operations such as counter-piracy and the delivery of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” read the release from the service.
“This year’s Cobra Gold will consist of three primary events: a command post exercise, which includes a senior leader seminar; humanitarian civic assistance projects in Thai communities; and a field training exercise that will build regional relationships.”
Cobra Gold 2016 will be the second since a military junta overthrew the elected government in Thailand in May of 2014 and declared martial law.
In the past, the exercise involved thousands of U.S. and Thai troops and included high-end military operations. But under prohibitions in U.S. law, American forces are limited in what exercises they conduct with a nation that has overthrown a democratically elected government – specifically under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, countries cannot receive aid other than for democracy promotion if the head of state has been deposed by a military coup d’état.
“Last year’s ‘scaled down’ Cobra Gold meant that the number of U.S. troops was reduced to just 3,600 and a large-scale, live-fire exercise associated with amphibious landing was canceled,” wrote The Diplomat. It is unclear whether the scaling down will play out in the same way and occur to the same degree for Cobra Gold 2016.”
Local press indicated U.S. troop totals – which has been as high as 13,000 in past iterations – could be even lower than the 2015 totals.
The following is the Jan. 25, 2016 statement from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.
EXERCISE COBRA GOLD 2016 TO BEGIN FEBRUARY 9
By 1st Lt. Courtney Caimona, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific
BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand and the United States will co-host the annual, multilateral Exercise Cobra Gold in various areas throughout the Kingdom of Thailand Feb. 9-19, 2016.
Exercise Cobra Gold, one of the largest multilateral exercises in the Asia-Pacific region, has taken place annually for more than 30 years. Cobra Gold 2016, the 35th version of the military exercise, will bring together more than two dozen nations to address regional and global security challenges and to promote international cooperation and stability within the region.
This year, Cobra Gold will strengthen regional cooperation and collaboration, increasing the ability of participating nations to work together on complex multilateral operations such as counter-piracy and the delivery of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The exercise will improve the capabilities of participating nations to plan and conduct combined, joint operations; build relationships across the region; and improve interoperability across a wide range of security activities. This year’s Cobra Gold will consist of three primary events: a command post exercise, which includes a senior leader seminar; humanitarian civic assistance projects in Thai communities; and a field training exercise that will build regional relationships.
For more information, photos, and stories about the Cobra Gold exercise, including past iterations, please visit the official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ExerciseCobraGold.
Additional information regarding major exercise events open to the media will be made available the first week of February.