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Jordanian Military Helps Its Neighbors

By Capt. Steve Alvarez, USA
American Forces Press Service

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Feb. 2, 2006 – The Jordanian military continues to help Iraq's fledgling military forces and provide Afghan and Iraqi citizens with medical care they have lacked for decades, Jordanian officials said here this week.

Jordan is part of a 63-nation coalition that has its headquarters at U.S. Central Command, in Tampa, Fla.

"We have two hospitals, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan," Royal Jordanian Air Force Col. Nart Alkhas said. "This is something we agreed to do with the American people. This is something we share."

A 50-bed Jordanian military hospital located in Masar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, cares for more than 650 patients a day, providing critical health care for thousands of Afghans who suffered neglect at the hands of the Taliban regime. More than 500,000 patients have been treated at the Jordanian military hospital in Afghanistan. Many of the patients are women, who were forced into a subservient role and feared to leave their homes until coalition forces entered Afghanistan in 2001.

In Iraq, a second Jordanian military hospital provides much-needed health services to Iraqis and serves as an ad hoc trauma center, treating patients wounded in terrorist attacks and moving them to Jordan or other locations "if they are in bad condition," Alkhas said. More than 4 million people have been treated in Jordan's military hospital in Iraq, and Jordanian military general surgeons have performed 1,638 surgeries, Alkhas said.

Jordan has committed nearly 600 health care practitioners to the medical assistance missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. They consist of medical personnel and Jordanian special forces, who protect the hospital staff, Alkhas said.

Aside from saving lives by providing medical care, the Jordanians also have helped Iraqis protect their own lives by providing them with military and police training, and donated military and police equipment, coalition officials said.

Jordanians have donated 250 armored personnel carriers to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. The vehicles consisted of 50 Ukrainian-built BTR-94 armored personnel carriers, 100 British Spartans, and 100 American-made M113A1 armored personnel carriers, coalition officials said. Jordan also donated two C-130B Hercules transport aircraft to the Iraqi air force, as well as 16 UH-1H utility helicopters.

Jordanians have helped train Iraqi security forces by hosting Iraqi police and border-enforcement training in Jordan, coalition officials said. Outside the Jordanian capital of Amman, the first all-female Iraqi army military police company was formed and trained by female Jordanian military personnel. The Jordanian military opened its ranks to women in the 1960s.

Royal Jordanian aircrews have trained some Iraqi air force pilots, and Jordanian noncommissioned officers helped train the Iraqi military's NCO corps in various locations in Iraq.

Alkhas said Jordanian military personnel are excited about helping Afghans and Iraqis. "People would like to go there (to Iraqi and Afghanistan) and stay longer," Alkhas said, particularly doctors and nurses.

The relationships forged by all three nations' militaries and its people are strong, Alkhas said. "They are respected, and we've never had problems," Alkhas said about his country's deployed military personnel.

"They're united. Everybody is working as a team," Alkhas said about Jordanians, Iraqis and Afghans.

That unity spurred al Qaeda in Iraq to launch a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks in Amman in November 2005. The attacks occurred at three Western-linked hotels and killed 60 people and injured 115 others. Alkhas said he lost a friend in one of the attacks.

"We're working very hard to stop these people and stop this terrorism," Alkhas said. "We're working hard to stabilize the area. When (terrorists) attack a military target -- a base, trucks -- we can understand that as soldiers. But when they attack civilians -- these people are crazy," Alkhas said. "Killing civilians -- we can't understand that."

In addition to deploying forces in their region, Jordan also has committed troops to security and stability operations elsewhere in the world, and not just to fight terrorism. Since Christmas, three Jordanian soldiers have been killed as part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. The U.N. mission deployed in 2004 after Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted from the presidency.

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Related Sites:
State Department Background Notes on Jordan
U.S. Central Command

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