Washington, Amman at loggerheads over Special Forces operatives' killing

Washington, Amman at loggerheads over Special Forces operatives' killing
2 min read
17 November, 2016
Amman has claimed the killings which took place at the al-Jafr air base were the result of a tragic accident. However, Washington has not "ruled out terrorism"
The US and Jordan traditionally enjoy strong diplomatic and military ties [Getty]

The US Embassy in Jordan on Thursday disputed a claim made by Jordanian authorities that US trainers were responsible for sparking a deadly shooting at a Jordanian military base earlier this month by disobeying orders from Jordanian soldiers.

Three Americans were killed in the incident at the al-Jafr air base in southern Jordan on November 4 after the convoy they were travelling in came under fire.

They have been identified as 27-year-old Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, of Lawrence, Kansas; 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe of Tucson, Arizona; and 27-year-old Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty of Kerrville, Texas.

All three were in Jordan on a training mission and were members of 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. A fourth American soldier and a Jordanian soldier, also travelling in the convoy, were wounded in the incident.

Speaking to The Associated Press on Thursday, US Embassy spokesman Eric Barbee said that US investigators were considering all possible motives for the attack and had not “ruled out terrorism”.

Jordanian officials initially claimed that the US Special Forces operatives’ convoy came under fire after they failed to heed calls to stop at a checkpoint at the entrance to the al-Jafr base.

However, the US Embassy has disputed this claim with Barbee stating on Wednesday that “contrary to press reports, there has been absolutely no credible evidence to suggest that US personnel acted contrary to orders or established procedures when accessing the base.”

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that a team of FBI agents has been sent to investigate the incident with concerns expressed by some US officials that Jordan could try to obfuscate any conclusion that the gunman responsible for the attack had been motivated by radical political, or religious beliefs due to reluctance to discuss issues regarding the potential influx of extremists into the Jordanian military.

The November 4 attack occurred almost a year after a Jordanian policeman shot dead two US instructors, a South African and two Jordanians at a police training centre east of Amman, before being gunned down, on November 9 2015, which was condemned by Washington but did not negatively impact diplomatic and military relations between the two states.

Last year, the United States announced its intention to increase overall US assistance to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion annually for the 2015-2017 period. Jordan is seen as a key regional ally to the US in ongoing efforts to combat the threat of the Islamic State.