President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary on Wednesday vowed to cut through
“red tape” slowing Us arms deliveries to Jordan, which plans to step up its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after the killing of a captured Jordanian pilot.
Ashton Carter, a former No. 2 Pentagon official, told the Senate Armed Services Committee it was important for Jordan to be able to acquire the weapons it needed, and he would work to address concerns raised by King Abdullah during a meeting with committee members on Tuesday.
“We need partners on the ground to beat ISIS,” Carter told the committee during a hearing on his nomination, adding that Jordan need help in fighting a “savage and nasty” foe.
Jordan on Wednesday said it would intensify its efforts to fight ISIS after the release of a video said to show the pilot, Maaz al-Kassasbeh, being burned alive in a cage. Abdullah cut short a visit to Washington after the release of the video.
US Senator John McCain, chairman of the committee, said King Abdullah had told senators at the US Capitol on Tuesday that Jordan was unable to get military equipment it needed in a timely fashion, sometimes for as long as a year.
All 26 members of his committee signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday urging them to send Amman everything it needs immediately.
McCain said the committee would also consider proposing legislation if needed to achieve goals outlined by the king during his meeting with committee members.
Carter told the hearing he was not familiar with the specific concerns raised by Abdullah but would address the issue promptly if confirmed as defense secretary.
He said he knew well how unnecessary “red tape” could slow deliveries of equipment, and had seen similar issues regarding weapons needed by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan during his previous jobs in the Pentagon.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was not aware of specific requests made by Jordan for additional weapons, but the Obama administration would consider any request submitted.
Carter said he could “well believe” that arms deliveries to Jordan were proceeding slower than King Abdullah or US officials found acceptable.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US government had signed a memorandum of understanding that would significantly increase US assistance to Jordan. She said she was not aware of any bottlenecks in delivering weapons.
Following the killing of Kassasbeh, Jordan said it will intensify its efforts with the US-led international coalition fighting ISIS, which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, Jordan’s neighbors to the north and east.
“We are talking about a collaborative effort between coalition members to intensify efforts to stop extremism and terrorism to undermine, degrade and eventually finish Daesh (ISIS),” Mohammed al-Momani, a Jordanian government spokesman, said.
The Syrian foreign ministry, meanwhile, called on Jordan “to cooperate in the fight against terrorism represented by the organization Daesh and [al-Qaeda’s Syria branch] al-Nusra Front … and other terrorist organizations associated with them in Syria and the region.”
Jordan is a major US-ally in the fight against ISIS and is home to hundreds of US military trainers bolstering defenses in the Syrian and Iraqi borders.
The United States has said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIS.
Described as the world’s wealthiest “terror” group, ISIS no longer relies on wealthy donors from Gulf states and has become financially self-sustainable in both Iraq and Syria, earning $1 million a day from black market oil sales alone.
The returns of oil trade contribute to the expansion of recruitment of these extremist groups.
The US-led coalition of around 60 mainly Western and Arab states has been bombing Iraq and Syria since August and September respectively, but has so far failed to fully stop the advance of militants.
Critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies, Jordan, and Turkey played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing, and politically empowering the armed opposition groups in Syria, and also allowing insurgents to freely infiltrate into the country.
Syrian newspapers on Wednesday said that ISIS’ murder of a captured Jordanian pilot is the consequence of Amman’s support for armed Syrian rebels, echoing longstanding claims by the Syrian government that Jordan is backing “terrorists” by supporting rebels. The Syrian regime refers to all armed opposition groups as “terrorists.”
Jordan also hosted US troops during operations that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The steady expansion of terrorist groups in Iraq, especially in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, raises questions about the effectiveness of the US anti-terrorism campaign since 2001.
Anbar was the main battleground between US Marines and al-Qaeda during the “surge” campaign in 2006-2007.
The United States decided to invade Iraq in 2003 using the pretexts of “fighting terrorism” and the presence of “weapons of mass destruction.”
The war aimed to eliminate al-Qaeda in Iraq, but the terrorist group didn’t exist in the country until after the invasion. The US invasion has served as a recruitment tool for terrorist groups, as figures show that terrorism rose precipitously in Iraq since 2003.
The war aimed to “free Iraqis” but instead killed at least half a million Iraqis and left the country in total turmoil.