The relationship forged between the United States and Kuwait during the war for Kuwait’s liberation in 1991 continues to grow, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told reporters traveling with him today as his plane left Kuwait to return to the United States.
Mattis traveled to Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Kuwait to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to partnerships in the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia.
While in Kuwait, Mattis met today with Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah. He also met with First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Sheikh Mohammad Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah during his visit.
Since its liberation, the secretary said, the United States has always been able to count on Kuwait.
"It's a very open, transparent, honest relationship," he added. "They'll tell you what they think right upfront about any issue if asked, and we do ask them. Routinely, I'll go to them for advice."
The military-to-military relationship between the two nations is a "very close" one, Mattis said, noting that only Germany, Japan and South Korea host more U.S. service members.
Window Into Region
Kuwait is a good window into the region because of its geography, Mattis told reporters. "I would call it, kind of, the political plains," he said. "You know, we've got Iraq to the north, connected to Syria. You've got Iran, then you've got the Arab states, and so it's sitting right geographically in the middle."
The United States can always get a new regional informed perspective from Kuwait, Mattis added. "They have, obviously, many contacts in the region because they live [there]," he explained.
The emir was calling together the Gulf Cooperation Council, but he took time out for their meeting, "which says something," the secretary said.
"[We] spent some time talking about the Yemen situation," Mattis said, "but most of it was about his commitment to the military-to-military relationship because of the turmoil in the region. He sees it as a stabilizing influence."
The United States needs the Gulf Cooperation Council structure, Mattis said.
"We need the unity of the GCC in terms of a stabilizing influence in the Gulf, so we support what [the emir is] doing," the secretary said. "We applaud what he's doing, and we stand with him on that effort. We're looking for cohesion in the GCC and the peaceful resolution of the regional disputes."
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)