Lawmakers support more military aid to Jordan fight IS

AP News
Posted: Feb 04, 2015 3:27 PM
Lawmakers support more military aid to Jordan fight IS

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans and Democrats pressed senior Obama administration officials on Wednesday to move swiftly to provide aircraft parts, night-vision equipment and other weapons to Jordan following a video purporting to show Islamic State militants burning a captured Jordanian air force pilot to death.

All 26 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Jordan's situation and the unanimity of the coalition battling the extremists "demands that we move with speed to ensure they receive the military materiel they require."

Jordan's King Abdullah II met with the committee and other lawmakers as well as President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

In the current year, the United States is providing Jordan with $1 billion in economic and military assistance. The Defense Department is also giving an unspecified amount of help to Jordan to secure its border with Syria. Islamic militants have grabbed significant swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.

The senators said Abdullah expressed his gratitude for the U.S. aid, but "we were concerned to hear from the king that Jordan is experiencing complications and delays in obtaining certain types of military equipment through our foreign military sales system."

"Specifically, Jordan is seeking to obtain aircraft parts, additional night vision equipment and precision munitions that the king feels he needs to secure his border and robustly execute combat air missions into Syria," the senators wrote.

The lawmakers also asked for a briefing for congressional staff no later than Feb. 13 for a status report on efforts to expedite aid.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration would consider any aid package put forward by Congress, but that the White House would be looking for a specific request from Jordan's government.

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expected his panel to swiftly approve legislation. He repeated his criticism that the Obama administration has "no strategy" for dealing with the Islamic State group. He said he hoped the video of the death of the Jordanian air force pilot, Lt. Muath Al-Kasaesbeh, will galvanize not only U.S. leadership but "the Arab world."

At the confirmation hearing for Obama's pick for Pentagon chief, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Abdullah had lamented how much time it was taking to get necessary military equipment to the Jordanians, who are willing to fight.

"I just couldn't believe what I heard yesterday — all the red tape that they have to go through to get something on the front lines to help them defend themselves," Manchin said. "I didn't hear so much that they need our combat troops. They need our expertise, and our people in the right places to make sure we're efficient. They just need the weapons to do the job."

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Manchin asked Ashton Carter, the nominee for defense secretary, his thoughts on breaking the gridlock.

Carter said he wasn't privy to what the lawmakers heard from the king. But he added: "I can well believe what you heard because I have a long experience of frustration with getting equipment to ... our war fighters, never mind partner war fighters, on time."

He vowed that if confirmed, he would work to ensure swift delivery of equipment.

Al-Kaseasbeh, who fell into the hands of the militants in December when his Jordanian F-16 crashed in Syria, is the only pilot from the U.S.-led coalition to have been captured to date. His death sparked outrage in Jordan, where the country's participation in the coalition against the Islamic State group has not been popular.


Associated Press reporters Deb Riechmann and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.