Jordan confronts Daesh threat
In the evolving fight against Daesh, Jordan cannot let down its guard, said Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, chief of Jordan’s border forces. In a February 2017 interview with The Associated Press, he said Daesh extremists were expanding their influence in the Rukban refugee camp on Jordan’s border, posing a growing threat to the kingdom.
Armed terrorists are trying to control and create cells inside the camp, Kafawin said. “We are sure they have whole weapons systems.” While he said he and his forces understand that “more than 90 percent” of Rukban’s residents simply seek asylum, “the others are extremists or Daesh people,” he said.
The threat in Rukban reflects a broader concern about Jordan’s border with Syria. With Daesh-allied fighters pushed out of eastern Mosul by a campaign to liberate the city, Jordan fears fighters are regrouping and gaining ground in southern Syria, near the Jordanian border.
“The threat is increasing, especially in this area,” Kafawin said, referring to that stretch of the border near Rukban. “We consider the whole Syrian border as a potential threat, but in this area, it is imminent.”
Jordan has deployed about half its military personnel and resources to protect the kingdom’s borders, Kafawin said, a sharp increase from before the 2011 outbreak of the Syria conflict.
Conditions in Rukban, an expanse of tents and makeshift shelters housing tens of thousands of stranded Syrians, deteriorated sharply after Jordan sealed its border in June 2016 following a cross-border Daesh car bomb attack. The closure disrupted what until then had been fairly regular distributions of food and water by Jordan-based international aid agencies.
In late 2016, after months of negotiations, U.N.-led aid groups and Jordanian officials worked out a new arrangement for the camps, located between two low, miles-long mounds of earth that straddle the Syrian-Jordanian border.
A food distribution center was set up several miles west of Rukban, while the U.N. established mobile health clinics consisting of several trailers on Jordanian territory. Aid officials said tribal leaders help organize the distributions.
In a joint statement in February 2017, U.N. agencies in Jordan said conditions still “present a survival challenge,” although they acknowledged the Jordanian military’s efforts to coordinate aid shipments. Sources: Business Insider, The Whig