* Eighth annual ‘Steppe Eagle’ exercises
* Focus on peacekeeping operations
ALMATY, Aug 13 (Reuters) - British and U.S. troops will join Kazakh forces for 10 days of military exercises from Monday, culminating in a mock peacekeeping operation to strengthen links between the three countries on Central Asian soil.
More than 1,000 military personnel, including a large contingent from the air mobile force of the Kazakh armed forces, are expected to take part in the eighth annual ‘Steppe Eagle’ exercises, the Kazakh Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The multinational exercise, part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, was launched in 2003, a ministry spokesman said. Military observers from several countries are expected to attend, the ministry said on its website, www.mod.gov.kz. "The exercise is intended to assist Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defence in its stated aim to generate a NATO inter-operable peace support operational capability, which may be deployed on U.N.-mandated peace support operations," British Defence Attache Simon Fitzgibbon told Reuters.
Kazakhstan’s "Kazbrig" peacekeeping brigade and "Kazbat" air mobile forces infantry batallion will participate in the event, to be held at the Iliysky military range in the Almaty region that surrounds Kazakhstan’s largest city.
Fitzgibbon said Britain’s participation in the project this year amounted to a more sustained programme throughout 2010. The Steppe Eagle training team will be the third such contingent to visit Kazakhstan this year alone.
"In addition, we will be providing an independent assessment team of UK officers who will deliver an "after-action" review on the Kazakh capabilities," he said, adding that this would be made available only to the Kazakh Defence Ministry. (Reporting by Robin Paxton; Editing by Mark Heinrich)