January 2, 2010

Jordan loses a soldier in Afghanistan

The Jordanian government surprisingly acknowledged today that a Jordanian military officer had been killed in Afghanistan. This is the first official confirmation that Jordan has sent members of its armed forces to Afghanistan. The soldier, Captain 'Ali bin Zayd, was killed on Wednesday. There were no other details of what the captain was doing in the country, nor of the circumstances of his death other than the official announcement that he died "as a martyr while performing the sacred duty of the Jordanian forces in Afghanistan."

Given the timing of the death - the same day that seven CIA officers were killed in an attack on the Agency base in Khowst province - it is very likely that the captain was participating in a CIA operation.

This would not be uncommon. The United States intelligence community has had long and strong ties connections with the Jordanian intelligence services, both military and civilian. The Jordanians bring to the table skills that are in short supply in our intelligence agencies - local language skills, area knowledge, ability to operate undetected in Middle East populations, etc. I have often worked with both the Jordan's Directorate of Military Intelligence and the General Intelligence Directorate. Their officers are skilled professionals and I would work them again with no hesitation whatsoever.

The cooperation of the Jordanians - and this would have to have been approved by King 'Abdullah II himself - is a testament to the unheralded alliance between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the United States. With the notable, but not overly surprising, support of Iraq by King Husayn following Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, the relationship between the two countries has been close for at least three decades. Assisting the Americans in Afghanistan is a continuation of the that relationship - and a welcome one.

Jordan's assistance has usually been kept very quiet, especially in Jordan. King 'Abdullah II walks a fine line in the region. There is a large population of Palestinians, many of whom are, or are the children of, refugees from the wars with Israel since Israel became a state in 1948. There has been a steady growth in Islamic fundamentalism in the kingdom as well. If a poll was taken in Jordan about the relationship between the kingdom and the United States, I suspect that the numbers in support would be low, however, among the military and professional ranks, support would be higher.

The Jordanians have supported us, often at the expense of their relationships with other countries in the region, especially among their Arab brothers. In this case, one of their officers gave his life in a fight that many might consider not his own. We should give a nod of gratitude to our allies in the Hashemite Kingdom.