US, Kuwaiti defense officials commemorate long history of cooperation

Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) , Fri, Sep 8, 2017

WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (KUNA) -- US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis met at the Pentagon Thursday with Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Sheikh Mohammed Khaled Al-Sabah during which he affirmed that the US and Kuwait share a "meaningful history of security cooperation and understanding."
In remarks during the meeting, Mattis said that since "the intervention to oust Saddam Hussein's army from your sovereign territory in 1991, our countries have maintained a highly productive military relationship."
He "fondly" recalled the 50 Kuwaiti soldiers "who served bravely in my marine infantry battalion when we went into the minefields together," and that "Kuwait provided valuable support to the US then, even while your country was occupied, and every year since."
He affirmed "now our militaries remain bonded by shared security concerns," and that "regional stability will be strengthened by Kuwait's robust commitment to fighting terrorism that you have always shown."
Mattis noted that in light of the common counter terrorism cause, the two countries maintain a very close military relationship that includes joint training and exchange programs "focused on enhancing counterterrorism at the local unit level."
"In addition, we appreciate greatly (His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah's) leadership and tireless efforts to mediate the recent rift between Qatar and other countries of the GCC," he remarked.

He added Kuwait "has stepped forward in its usual way and we are grateful for his (His Highness the Amir) leadership."
The Pentagon chief said he looks forward to discussing with his Kuwaiti counterpart "how we can further advance our countries military relationship in the coming months and years and in particular exploring ways to increase Kuwait's involvement to defeat (IS) campaigns."
"You and I have inherited very strong relations and it is our responsibility to our people to make certain that we leave our positions with the relations even stronger and that is what we are committed to today," he concluded.

For his part, Sheikh Mohammed affirmed that the relations between the two countries are "solid and strong" and that the relations are now more stronger and deeper especially after the meeting between US President Donald Trump and His Highness the Amir.

"I would like to address a very important point which is the very important role you (Mattis) played during the liberation of Kuwait... Most of the people of Kuwait know and are aware of your love for Kuwait and for the positions you have taken," he remarked.

He added that "with respect to the military cooperation between the two countries... we have made strides in this regard and I remember on August 2 I was paying a visit to Arifjan camp. I picked August 2 in particular so I could thank our friends during the visit I was paying to the Arifjan camp. I told them before I departed from the camp that August 2, 1990 was something and the August 2, 2017 is another, thanks to your assistance and help as friends."
As to the threat of terrorism, Sheikh Mohammed stressed "this is a threat that covers us both. We are both threatened by it, the US and Kuwait. Therefore, it is very important that we cooperate in this regard."
The meeting was attended by Kuwait's Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah, Defense Attache Marzouk Al-Bader, Chief of the Air Force Abdullah AlFoudari, Chariman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Lawrence Silverman.

The meeting was attended by Kuwait side: Assistant to the Chief of Staff for Operations and Planning Mohammed AlKhandari, Fawaz Al-Sharhan from the military attache office and Counselor Abdulziz Alqadfan from the Embassy of Kuwait
American side: Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger , Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency Charles Hooper and Senior Military Advisor Craig Faller.)
Meanwhile, Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White said in a statement that Mattis, during the meeting "expressed appreciation for the strategic partnership between the United States and Kuwait and thanked the Minister for his nation's ongoing support in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, specifically Kuwait's willingness to host US and coalition forces in support of military operations."
"They also discussed their shared commitment to continue the two nations' close security cooperation during Secretary Mattis' leadership of the department," the statement added.

Mattis also discussed "the state of relations among the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the importance of de-escalating tensions so all partners in the Gulf region can focus on next steps in meeting common goals." (end)
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