Deadly Attack at Jordanian Training Base Highlights Dangers for U.S. Contractors
A Jordanian police officer shot and killed as many as eight people, including two Americans, at a training center near the Jordanian capital of Amman on Monday, underscoring the risks facing military and civilian personnel deployed to what is normally one of the Middle East’s most stable countries. The shooting claimed the lives of two ...
A Jordanian police officer shot and killed as many as eight people, including two Americans, at a training center near the Jordanian capital of Amman on Monday, underscoring the risks facing military and civilian personnel deployed to what is normally one of the Middle East’s most stable countries.
The shooting claimed the lives of two Americans, a South African, and a Jordanian at the Jordan International Police Training Center. The nationalities of the other four victims are unknown. The attacker was shot dead by Jordanian security forces. Early reports indicate that two other Americans and three Jordanians had been wounded.
So far, no group has taken responsibility for the attack, which came on a grim anniversary in Jordanian history — 10 years to the day after a team of suicide bombers hit three hotels in Amman on Nov. 9, 2005, in a killing spree that left about 60 dead and more than 100 wounded. The attacks had been masterminded by al Qaeda in Iraq’s then leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He was later killed by U.S. special operations forces in Iraq.
The base where the attack occurred has played an important role in various U.S.-funded training programs in the Middle East. Established in 2003 as a facility to help train the Iraqi security forces, it became a centerpiece of the U.S.-led effort to build a capable Iraqi police force. Over the past 12 years, it has churned out more than 50,000 Iraqi cops.
The training has been carried out primarily by a variety of U.S. security contractors like DynCorp International, which has won several contracts to do police training at the base. In addition to the Iraqis, security forces from Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority have attended the facility under a variety of contracts mostly funded by the U.S. State Department. The two slain Americans were DynCorp employees.
Monday’s attack marked a rare instance of U.S. contractors dying somewhere other than Iraq or Afghanistan. Civilian contractors have paid a high price in those two countries, with one study conducted by researchers at Brown University this year estimating that some 6,900 contractors — mostly from countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — have died over the past 14 years of war in the two countries. There are still 30,000 contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon’s latest count, and roughly 10,000 of those civilian workers are U.S. citizens. Overall, 5,800 more Americans are spread throughout the rest of the Middle East, working on various projects for the Defense Department.
The State Department declined to provide numbers for how many U.S. contractors are working in Jordan on State Department contracts.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Jordan confirmed the deaths of the two U.S. government contractors, adding that two other Americans were wounded. The Jordanian government has already tweeted out a series of images of King Abdullah II meeting with some of the injured at an Amman hospital.
Speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the White House, President Barack Obama said that U.S. officials are taking the attack “very seriously” and will assist Jordanian officials in launching a full investigation.
No American military personnel were injured in the attack, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday, though there are U.S. military personnel stationed in Jordan assisting the Jordanian military.
While U.S. forces in Afghanistan have come under attack from Afghan trainees over the years in a series of “green-on-blue” attacks, this is the first attack at the Jordanian facility and the first on U.S. government-affiliated personnel in Jordan since USAID officer Laurence Foley was gunned down by al Qaeda sympathizers in Amman in 2002. Foley’s murder was orchestrated by Zarqawi, before he took control of al Qaeda in Iraq. Jordan has long been a close ally of the United States, and Jordanian jets have played a role in the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria. Jordan has also trained some Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State in Syria.
The U.S. Embassy said that due to the ongoing investigation, “it is premature to speculate on motive at this point. We are working closely with the Government of Jordan and local security services on a full and comprehensive investigation.”
Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images
Correction, Nov. 9, 2015: Laurence Foley is the USAID officer who was gunned down by al Qaeda sympathizers in Jordan in 2002. An earlier version of this article misspelled his first name as Lawrence and said he was a USAID administrator.