ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT —
Jordan -- described by one U.S. embassy official as a “pool of sanity in this crazy sea of the Middle East” -- has been stalwart in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and yesterday the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thanked Jordanian leaders for their continued support.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford called Jordan “an enduring partner” that worked with U.S. service members long before ISIS raised its ugly head.
During his two-day visit to Amman, Dunford met with King Abdullah II, Defense Minister Hani Mulki and Gen. Mahmoud Freihat, the chief of defense. The chairman also met with the U.S. country team led by U.S. Ambassador Alice Wells, and visited the Joint Training Center, where he met with U.S. troops.
The chairman said he wanted to hear Jordanian leaders’ insights on the situation in the region. “This is their neighborhood and they are attuned in ways we are not,” he said during an interview.
Jordan hosts hundreds of U.S. service members that are training local forces. Jordanian service members have also worked to train Iraqi soldiers and police, including Iraqi special operations forces. Jordan also has launched strikes against ISIS.
ISIS is a threat to the nation as Jordan shares long borders with both Syria and Iraq. Jordanian officials have expressed concerns about the possibility of ISIS operatives hiding in the throngs of refuges that are leaving Syria and western Iraq to escape the fighting in those nations.
That fighting has caused a refugee crisis, and Jordan now provides sanctuary to at least 1.4 million refugees. Jordanian officials say the number could be as high as 2 million. The impact of those numbers is significant in a country of just over 8 million people.
The flood of refugees has taxed the country, but, with aid from other nations, the Jordanian government is managing the flow, officials have said, and Jordan is providing shelter, schools, medical care and other services to those fleeing ISIS.
Foreign aid is key to Jordan being able to help the refugees and officials have said they are worried about threats to cut U.S. foreign aid. The United States sends roughly $1 billion each year to Jordan, helping maintain stability in the country.
Abdullah spoke to Dunford about the killing of three U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers in southern Jordan last November. “The king raised it [in our discussions] and expressed his condolences to the U.S. military and, most importantly, to the families of the soldiers that were killed,” the chairman said. “He also offered Jordan’s full support and anything that was on-going regarding the investigations or taking care of the families.”