US Army Advisers Make First Mission to the Maldives With Eyes on China

The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, a region where the US is boosting military ties to counter Beijing

US Army advisers traveled to the Maldives this year and spent February and March training the country’s military in what is expected to be the first of many rotational deployments.

The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, located to the southwest of India and Sri Lanka. The US signed a defense agreement with the Maldives last September, part of the Trump administration’s efforts to boost military ties in the region, an effort that is being continued under President Biden.

According to a report from Army Times, the US Army’s 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), a unit formed in 2019 for training missions, plans to keep one-third of its roughly 820 soldiers deployed across the Indo-Pacific.

The Army Times report said officials at the 5th SFAB have been “tight-lipped” about where its advisers have been deployed in the region and have only acknowledged a few countries, like Indonesia. With the US-China rivalry heating up, some countries might be hesitant to publicize military cooperation with Washington, although the Maldives seemed happy to announce the mission.

In March, Maj. Gen. Abdulla Shamaal, the Maldives’ military chief, tweeted about the 5th SFAB training after meeting with Maj. Gen. Daniel F. McDaniel, the head of US Army Pacific. “Happy to note that many of the discussions we had 13 months ago have become a reality including the joint training with the US 5th SFAB,” Shamaal said.

The Maldives has a small military, numbering only 2,500 members across all branches of service. 5th SFAB advisers are expected to return this summer.

When the US and the Maldives signed a new military agreement last September, India welcomed the news. But back in 2013, when the US was seeking a similar deal, India objected to the idea. India’s approval of the Maldives-US deal is a sign of the country’s shift towards the US as tensions between New Delhi and Beijing are rising.

Last October, the US and India signed a new defense pact that allows the US to share more satellite data with New Delhi. The deal has allowed the US to help India keep an eye on Chinese troops near the disputed border in the western Himalayans, where a deadly skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops turned erupted last June.

Besides the US, India has also taken steps to increase military cooperation with Australia and Japan. The four countries form the informal alliance known as the Quad that could be a foundation for an anti-China NATO-style military alliance in Asia.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.