Next Cobra Gold will focus on planning and strategy
Officers from the Thai and United States military met last week to discuss plans for next February’s Cobra Gold joint military exercises – the largest joint military exercises by the U.S. in Asia – and agreed the upcoming drills will focus on military strategy and planning, which involves fewer troops than other types of trainings.
Senior officers from the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters and the U.S. Pacific Command met last week and decided upon Nakhon Ratchasima in the northeast and several coastal provinces as the sites for next year’s exercises. A Thai military source told the Bangkok Post newspaper that his American counterparts assured him that Cobra Gold is secured as part of the bilateral alliance and the state of Thai politics would not affect that.
Some political observers have scoured any details or changes in Cobra Gold and attempted to interpret them as indicators of the state of the alliance between the two countries, but these interpretations have been largely speculative and often at odds with the actual situation.
Thailand is the oldest treaty ally of the United States in Asia, with formal relations dating back to 1833. Thai soldiers have fought shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. troops in the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and participated in over 20 United Nations peacekeeping missions. The two countries have been co-hosting Cobra Gold since 1982 when it was a bilateral training. It has grown to a multi-country series of exercises, but always co-hosted by and held in Thailand.
Cobra Gold’s focus changes every year. The trainings have covered areas ranging from amphibious assaults to disaster preparedness and response. As the 2017 edition will focus on strategy and planning, they are being referred to as a “light version” of Cobra Gold. Only about 4,000 U.S. troops will be participating in February as planning and strategy mainly involves the officer corps. Last year’s exercises were more extensive and emphasized in-the-field trainings, and drew about 8,500 U.S. troops to Thailand.
The Thai and U.S. armed forces have participated in three joint military trainings in 2016: Cobra Gold, Hanuman Guardian, and CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness Training), which is mainly a naval exercise.