Jordan to play ‘crucial role’ as US shifts military resources to Kingdom

(Photo: Jordan News)
(Photo: Jordan News)
NEW YORK — The US’ decision to shift some of its military resources to Jordan indicates, among other things, a crucial role the Kingdom will play in the region during President Joe Biden’s term in office, pundits have said.اضافة اعلان

An American military newspaper has reported that the United States has closed extensive bases across Qatar that once housed arms depots overcrowded with weaponry and other supplies needed to support ground operations in Iraq. Supplies from each of the bases as well as their missions have been relocated to Jordan.

The US Army released a statement at the end of June that it had officially closed Area Support Group-Qatar (ASG-Qatar), a program that had been supporting military and humanitarian operations in the Middle East for nearly three decades. With the closure of this program, the US also shuttered Camp As Sayliyah-Main, Camp As Sayliyah-South, and “Falcon” – an ammunition supply point. The weaponry and support mission formerly supported by these bases are now part of Area Support Group-Jordan (ASG-Jordan).

This movement of assets to Jordan bolsters US presence in the Levant while creating a vacancy in a long-standing and once widely popular location for troops in North Africa. Military analysts posit that the US’s primary motivation behind this move could be attributed to a number of possibilities – ranging from a shift in multinational interests to meet the challenges of the rising threat of global Russian and Chinese influence and aggression in the region to a simple and natural phasing out of that a once popular basing architecture in the region that was largely geared to extremist and factional threats to meet the evolving security needs of the US and its allies in the region.

This move comes just weeks after the Pentagon announced its most recent withdrawal acceleration efforts with the removal of anti-missile defense systems and hundreds of troops stationed across Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait.

Some military analysts see this move as a way to decrease the US Military’s vulnerability to potential Iranian aggression and missile strikes. According to David Desroches, a professor at the Near East South Asia Center: a US Department of Defense educational and diplomatic institution, this shift away from the Gulf is strategic – it removes assets from a position more easily susceptible to an Iranian strike to one far more difficult to access. Thus by moving these assets, the US will be able to keep a closer eye on the continual threat of Iran and its proxies without having to sacrifice its safety.

As for the decision to transport operations to Jordan specifically, the existing capacity and longstanding camaraderie in Jordan make it an attractive place for the US to consolidate its resources. In an interview with the Jordan News, Steven Heydeman, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and director of the Smith College Middle Eastern Studies program, points out the crucial role that Jordan will likely play within the Biden administration’s Middle East policy strategy with respect to the downsizing of US forces in Iraq, the crisis in Syria, and the threat of Iranian proxies. He states, “Over the course of the Syria conflict, and as the US presence in Iraq was drawing down, Jordan became an enormous hub for US diplomatic operations in the region. And there is US infrastructure in Jordan that is well-equipped for taking on the additional roles of whatever functions are now going to be handled out of Jordan.”

Desroches tells Jordan News that the decision was likely based in part on the robust capacity that already exists in Jordan because of the long-standing close relationship between the countries. He describes how Jordan already has extensive experience in training military personnel and has demonstrated its ability to successfully absorb the mission that had been undertaken in Qatar. Additionally, he states, “Jordan’s viewed (by the US) as a very, very reliable and noble partner.”

Becca Wasser, a fellow in the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security, sees the move as a natural progression from a base that no longer holds the same strategic and practical influence to one that can address much of the conflict we have moving forward. She states, “These were not major operating bases. Rather, they were forward staging areas turned storage facilities needed to support ground operations in Iraq which have now wound down. Moreover, these supplies & facilities aren’t what is needed in a possible Iran contingency.”

She adds, “Such sites are part of an outmoded basing architecture in the region. There are too many bases that don’t support ongoing or future operations and require massive resources and personnel. That means the basing footprint needs to change, but that the US military needs to withdraw.”

Heydeman sees the move in the context of a post-Afghanistan adjustment for the United States, stating: “This is part of a broader strategy of a pivot toward Asia on the part of the United States which, which preceded the arrival of the Biden administration into office, I'm sure it will extend beyond this administration.”

Although US intentions behind this move are still unclear, it aligns with a pattern of behavior exhibited by the Biden administration to distance itself from the Gulf and Northern Africa by withdrawing forces and military equipment from the region. His Majesty King Abdullah is currently in the United States for a three-week visit, and his upcoming private meeting with President Biden, slated for July 19, is likely to offer more details about the Biden administration’s Middle East policy and what role Jordan will play in it.

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