Asia Defense

US-Sri Lanka CARAT Exercises Halted Following Easter Terror Attacks

The exercise began two days before Easter Sunday bombings rocked Sri Lanka.

Ankit Panda
US-Sri Lanka CARAT Exercises Halted Following Easter Terror Attacks
Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jordan KirkJohnson/Released

The United States and Sri Lanka jointly decided to suspend an ongoing bilateral military exercise following a series of Easter Sunday terror attacks across Sri Lanka. Their exercise, part of the United States’ series of Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training (CARAT) exercises — in its 25th anniversary this year — was halted after starting on April 19.

“All U.S. personnel involved in CARAT are accounted for and redeployment is in progress,” the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a press release Monday. “We fully support our Sri Lankan partners during this tragic situation and offer our deepest condolences for all of the victims.”

Nearly 300 and 500 people, respectively, were killed and injured in Sunday’s attacks, which involved a series of explosions across the country targeting Christians celebrating Easter in addition to luxury hotels. Around 40 non-Sri Lankan citizens, including Americans, were killed in the attacks.

The U.S.-Sri Lanka CARAT exercise was slated to take place for a week and was based off the southern port city of Hambantota. Hambantota was not targeted in Sunday’s attacks, but the suspension of exercises will allow Sri Lanka to reallocate military resources should they become necessary in the aftermath.

The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps will continue the CARAT series of exercises later this year with other Indo-Pacific partner states and allies, including Brunei, Indonesia, and Thailand.

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“Twenty-five years of CARAT speaks for the enduring partnerships in this region,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Task Force 73 in a U.S. Navy press release. “CARAT represents a quarter century of partners and allies in the region bringing their enthusiasm, knowledge, and perspectives to this exercise. CARAT also represents our future continuing to work together and strengthening our relationships.”

According to the U.S. Navy, this year’s U.S.-Sri Lanka CARAT exercises would have given Sri Lankan Navy sailors a chance to “serve aboard Navy vessels for hands-on learning during the at-sea phase of the exercise to increase interoperability between the two countries.”

Two U.S. warships and one U.S. Navy aircraft were slated to participate in the exercise. Apart from a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance and expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket were participating in CARAT.

Sri Lankan forces have joined other U.S.-led regional exercises in recent years, including the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercises. Colombo sent forces in 2017, but last year, it didn’t participate.