American forces withdraw 3,000 soldiers from allied exercise in northern Norway
The exercise that is due 2-18th March 2020 was planned to include up to 19,000 troops, of them 10,500 Americans. Now, 3,000 of the American troops are withdrawn.
Less participating U.S. troops was first reported about by the newspaper Fremtiden.
The Norwegian Armed Forces confirm that the exercise will be held without all the planned American participation. It is the enhanced American engagement in the Middle East that has made the Pentagon change its plans, spokesman for the Norwegian Armed Forces’ operational headquarters. Lt. Col. Ivar Moen says to NRK.
The tense relations with Iran has consequences also for many of the Americans that currently serve in northern Norway, Moen confirms to the broadcaster.
The Cold Response has been held every other year since 2006. This year’s exercise will be held mainly in the southern part of region Troms and Finnmark, the Norwegian Armed Forces say.
The distance to the Russian border is several hundred kilometers.
The exercise is to enhance the ability of allied troops to carry out joint multinational operations in an environment of high-intensity battle and challenging winter conditions. It also include a high focus on landing operations with marine forces making it to land with landing ships and helicopters to attack enemy positions, the military organizers from the Norwegian Armed Forces’ operational headquarters say.
Cold Response 2020 was thought to become the biggest ever of the bi-annual exercise. However, without the Americans, this year’s drills will not be as extensive as planned.
Also the UK, Netherlands, Germay, France, Belgium, Denmark, Latvia, Finland and Sweden will take part.
Joint allied training in northern Norway has over the years intensified. Several NATO countries regularly train their troops in north Norwegian facilities and the U.S. has a permanent rotating unit of up to 700 men in the area.
In 2019, Norway hosted the Trident Juncture, a major NATO exercise that included more than 50,000 soldiers from 31 countries.
The reported lack of capacity among U.S forces to take part in the Cold Response comes after Norway earlier said it would not be able to take part in the U.S-lead exercise Defender Europe-20.
«For 2020, Norway focuses on exercise Cold Response and participation in the Swedish exercise Aurora 2020, and therefore has little capacity to participate in any of the exercises in the U.S. Defender 2020 campaign plan,» says spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense, Per-Thomas Bøe told the Barents Observer.
UPDATE: This article was updated on January 18. The previous text gave an impression all US troops would be withdrawn, which was not correct.