Dili – East Timor's first joint military exercise with the United States began Wednesday with the arrival of the USS Bonhomme Richard assault ship.
The manoeuvres with 2,500 US troops and Australia forces are to last through October 24, aimed at bolstering the skills of East Timor's armed forces. Besides field exercises, the troops are also to carry out humanitarian assistance activities.
US Ambassador Hans Klem said jungle training, urban training, infantry training, beach landings, and engineering and medical projects would be conducted.
Work began Wednesday with the establishment of medical and dental clinics, Klem said after participating in the arrival of the USS Bonhomme Richard in the Maubara subdistrict, 40 kilometres west of Dili.
East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta said he was optimistic that the exercises would help the military learn modern techniques and would allow the US forces to study local guerilla techniques.
Ramos Horta also said his country appreciated the humanitarian assistance the US forces were bringing. "Thousands of East Timorese will benefit from medical care," he said.
East Timor, which became independent in 2002, has a small force of 1,300 personnel that the government hopes to boost to 2,000 by the year 2012.