Agence France Presse

Thailand, May 16:

Urban areas are becoming the main battlefield against terrorists, US military officials said today as they put Thai troops through house-to-house combat training in annual war games.

“It’s a dangerous world out there. Terrorism isn’t just in the Middle East any more and if these guys are assisting us out there, they need to know how to do this stuff as it will save lives,” US Navy Lieutenant Justin Hadley told AFP as more than 100 camouflaged

soldiers stormed the building behind him. Hadley said the urban warfare training was an important component of this year’s Cobra Gold exercises, involving almost 20,000 military personnel from the United States, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Mongolia.

The US Marine Corps is teaching soldiers how to wage battle in the midst of cities and towns, which Marine Captain Landon Hutchens said were fast replacing the forests and jungles that Asian armies have traditionally been trained to operate in.

“The world is becoming rapidly more urbanised and as more areas are built up and developed the battlefield is increasingly becoming the urban jungle,” he said. Hutchens said the skills being taught in Cobra Gold could be utilised in operations anywhere in the world.

“There have been quite a few situations where our friends and allies have had to storm a building to confront terrorists and take out terrorist cells, and it is also essential in peacekeeping,” he said. Leading about 40 marines and 100 Thai soldiers through their paces at a military base in central Thailand, Marine Lieutenant Patrick McKinley said the training was critical if the US and Asian nations were to work together in future United Nations-led coalitions.

“It’s very important so that in world UN operations we don’t kill them and they don’t kill us,” McKinley said. “If they know how it works and we go into combat together, then it will be much easier.” Having just learned the basics of fighting in corridors, kicking down doors and storming rooms which could house a potential enemy, Thai Captain Niwat Dangthaisong said the training could be used at home and abroad. “We are just preparing in case it happens. Maybe we might have to go abroad to help other countries and there are events such as in the south so we prepare for the future,” said Niwat. The Philippines and Mongolia are participating for the first time in the massive joint air, land and sea manoeuvres scheduled to run until May 27.