Afghan National Army soldiers, who took part in military exercises in Saudi Arabia, were at the closing ceremony of the Joint Gulf Shield on Monday, the ministry of defense confirmed.
The exercises, that brought together military personnel from 24 countries, started on March 18 in Saudi Arabia and ended on Monday.
Among the countries that participated were India, Afghanistan, the United States, United Kingdom and Pakistan.
However, critics blasted government for having allowed the Afghan soldiers to participate in a military drill on Monday, especially when Pakistan was in the front of a parade.
But the defense ministry responded to the criticism and said the Afghan soldiers, along with their counterparts from other countries, had attended the military exercise in order to become better prepared for counter-terrorism actions.
“The exercise is only for making preparations to fight terrorism, insurgency and other groups that might emerge in these countries. So they will be prepared on how to act against them and which capabilities they need ,” defense ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said.
Brigadier Abdullah bin Hussein Al-Subaie, a Saudi spokesman for the exercise, said the initiative had been conducted to enhance military capabilities and to forge closer cooperation between the military from various countries.
“The aim of the military exercise is to enhance the soldiers’ capabilities and to create close cooperation between them in addressing regional challenges. Joint military exercises by different countries enhances the soldiers’ abilities and finally helps us to strengthen the security of the region,” said Al-Subaie.
The Joint Gulf Shield military exercises are believed to have been the biggest of its kind in the region to date – not only in terms of countries that participated but also regarding the types of weapons and equipment used.
On Monday, leaders of Arab countries, and others, headed to the eastern city of Jubail in Saudi Arabia to attend the final phase of the Joint Gulf Shield-1 military exercise.
The armed forces of 24 Arab and Islamic states participated in the second phase of the exercise, which was launched on April 2 in Saudi Arabia. The first phase was conducted late March.
The one-month exercise came under the auspices of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.