Jordan gets German support to fight ISIS

Germany handed over to Jordan two training aircraft and other military vehicles worth about $22 million.
Sunday 28/01/2018
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen during a handing over ceremony at Marka International Airport in Amman, on January 14.  (AFP)
Considering rollback. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen during a handing over ceremony at Marka International Airport in Amman, on January 14. (AFP)

LONDON - Germany said it would continue to support Jordan as part of international efforts to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) while considering a reduction in the number of its soldiers stationed in the kingdom.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement during a visit to Jordan, which included a stop at the Azraq airbase where 280 German troops are based as part of the US-led coalition’s battle against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

In October, Germany redeployed military personnel and Tornado surveillance jets to Jordan after withdrawing them from Turkey amid a diplomatic dispute with Ankara.

Jordan, which borders former ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq, has been a key ally in the US-led campaign.

Germany delivered to Jordan two training aircraft and military vehicles worth about $22 million. The military equipment includes two training aircraft worth $6.1 million and 70 trucks and 56 vans worth $15.9 million, DW reported.

Germany spent nearly $160 million on defence aid for Jordan last year, including weapons, equipment and infrastructure, the German news agency DPA said.

Von der Leyen said the equipment was meant to “improve mobility at the border” to support Jordan, which she praised as “a reliable and strong partner in a troubled region,” Jordan’s state-run news agency Petra said.

“Jordan shares a 380km border with Syria. Violence does not stop at this border. It is a gateway for terrorists,” she said. “Germany will continue to stand by your side. We are convinced that despite tremendous challenges, Jordan stands solid as a rock.”

ISIS has lost large areas of territory in Syria and Iraq, raising questions about the future of the anti-ISIS mission but von der Leyen stressed that the fight against the militants would continue to ensure they don’t establish positions elsewhere. ISIS fighters “are not to be underestimated” and they must not be allowed “to retreat into safe havens,” she said.

The German defence minister met with Jordanian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lieutenant-General Mahmoud Abdel Halim Freihat, who thanked her for Berlin’s military support. “I would like to express [the Jordanian armed forces’] desire to develop the current support programme into a 5-year plan that will allow our requirements to be phased in,” he said.

Von der Leyen also met with Jordanian King Abdullah II, discussing the “importance of intensifying cooperation and coordination among all concerned parties, regionally and internationally… to address the threat of terrorism,” said a statement by the Jordanian royal court.

Von der Leyen had to postpone a planned trip in November due to an impasse in forming a government at home. The German minister promised the new government would provide troops with better equipment and training.

Jordan said it had foiled an ISIS plot or a series of attacks last November on security installations, shopping malls and moderate religious figures. The intelligence department arrested 17 members of the cell and confiscated weapons and explosives.

“The members of the cell had planned to execute several terrorist attacks simultaneously to destabilise national security and sow chaos and terror among civilians,” a government statement said.

The statement said the cell planned to carry out bank robberies and car thefts to help finance their activities. They planned to construct homemade explosives from material bought at local markets, the statement added.

In addition to fearing ISIS attacks within its borders, Jordan is concerned that militants could infiltrate the country from Syria.

UN agencies sent aid to the approximately 60,000 displaced Syrians in the remote desert camp of Rukban for the first time since June, hoisting supplies by crane across the Jordan-Syria border.

Jordan sealed the border on security grounds in June 2016 after ISIS killed seven Jordanian border guards. The closure severely disrupted aid shipments. Jordan said the crane-drop is a one-off and that the United Nations must supply Rukban from Syria.