A View From The Top

The Jordanian commander who organized Eager Lion 22 discusses contemporary security threats to the region

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat, then-director of the Jordan Armed Forces’ training and exercises directorate, played a leading role in the success of the Eager Lion 22 military exercise held in Jordan in September 2022. Unipath interviewed him about the importance of military training in tackling contemporary security challenges:

Unipath: How important is the Eager Lion exercise for stability and peace in the region?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: First of all, thank you for your interview. I would like to emphasize the depth of Jordanian-U.S. bilateral relations, as well as the deep ties between the countries participating in this year’s exercise. The strategic environment has undergone rapid changes that have led to the emergence of extremist ideas and ideologies affecting security, peace and stability throughout the world. The Eager Lion 2022 exercise is a simulation of the reality of these changes and seeks to create a common military environment among countries to achieve security and stability through the implementation of numerous military operations at both the strategic and operational level.

Unipath: What is special about the Eager Lion 2022 exercise?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: The Eager Lion exercise is characterized by a number of distinctive features: First, the diversity and number of participants, whereby 26 brotherly and friendly nations, in addition to the United States of America and Jordan, took part in the exercise. This is reflected positively in terms of the diversity of expertise and the multiplicity of methods. Second is the nature and quality of the objectives that the exercise aims to achieve, namely fighting terrorism and enhancing the effectiveness of cybersecurity and information operations, as well as how to tackle the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Third, and this is most important, meetings and seminars which brought together senior military leaders, dignitaries and experts with the aim of discussing global problems and threats and how to tackle and address these at all levels.

Unipath: The 2022 exercise is the first since the COVID pandemic. How did you manage preparation and coordination under COVID constraints?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: The fact of the matter is that the coronavirus pandemic cast a shadow over the whole world, not only in the areas of military and defense cooperation, but it has also had a huge impact on the economic and social lives of citizens. Therefore, the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army have transformed the challenges and difficulties into opportunities, managing the situation capably and efficiently. What gave them this expertise and good management is the previous exercises they carried out with brotherly and friendly nations, namely the Eager Lion exercise in its previous iterations. The Jordan Armed Forces have lived through every aspect of the coronavirus pandemic, which has given them the ability to deal with all the contingent variables, in addition to the ability to manage and unite efforts at the national level, making the pandemic a preparatory and coordinating period for the exercise.

Unipath: What current regional threats shape the planning of such a large exercise?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: The region is undergoing many changes and emerging challenges, so this year the focus was on a number of objectives to be achieved that affect international peace and security, namely the threat of terrorism and the risk of the use of weapons of mass destruction and the mechanisms for dealing with them, in addition to cyber threats and training to increase coordination and collaboration between governmental and nongovernmental bodies at the state and international level.

Unipath: How does Jordan maintain stability in a volatile region?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: We in the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army believe in the importance of living in a safe and secure environment. We draw our determination and our strength from His Majesty, the Commander in Chief of the Jordan Armed Forces, King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, who, in every international forum, calls for the right of nations to live in safety and stability. This is why the Jordan Armed Forces have consistently striven to build and reinforce the imperative of international interdependence and cooperation to achieve a global environment suited to constructive and positive interaction. In spite of the regional crises that have cast their shadow over us, we continue to perform our duty and achieve international peace and security.

Unipath: The Jordanian and U.S. militaries enjoy a century of partnership. How important is this partnership for regional peace and security?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: The Eager Lion exercise, first launched in 2011 and now in its 10th iteration, is one of the most important exercises carried out by U.S. Central Command. Implementation of all the exercise’s activities in the territories of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is absolute proof of the depth of strategic relations between the two countries, as well as proof of the important regional and international role played by Jordan in achieving regional security and stability in cooperation with its strategic partner, the United States of America.

Unipath: Daesh used chemical weapons on a small scale in Iraq and Syria. How can you preempt such scenarios and prevent violent extremists from accessing weapons of mass destruction?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: In light of the increase in conventional and nonconventional threats and with the objective of limiting their impact on the lives of citizens and to achieve the highest level of collaboration and coordination between the armed forces, other security services and various state institutions, we created many scenarios and crisis simulations to train participants on how to deal with them, the most prominent of which is the National Plan for Dealing with Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear Materials (CBRN) and the National Plan for Dealing with Terrorist Operations, in addition to application of the National Plan for Dealing with Epidemic Diseases and Environmental Pollution. All these scenarios were carried out in coordination with the National Center for Security and Crisis Management in conjunction with the 2022 Eager Lion exercise to achieve the objectives within a complex operational environment, and to achieve in-depth strategic planning and raise the level of national capabilities in managing crises. Moreover, these plans and scenarios were based on the threats to which neighboring and regional countries have been exposed, and we in the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army are always seeking to develop our doctrine and combat readiness to deal with such changes and threats on land, at sea and in the air.

Unipath: How do you maintain border security with Iraq and Syria to repel terrorists?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: There is no doubt that the Jordan Armed Forces face many challenges and threats on the northeastern border with Syria and Iraq because of the consequences brought about by the regional environment and the nature of the volatile setting that has led to the emergence of foreign sponsored militias and organizations that seek to destabilize the security and stability of the kingdom and the region. These militias and organizations do not carry out conventional operations, but work to use new methods such as misinformation, media targeting operations and cyberattacks, in addition to the use of new methods of smuggling, such as drones, which require ongoing coordination and the recruitment of mobile training teams from the American side to train border guard forces. Our Armed Forces operate via an integrated system and high readiness to maintain security, safety and stability in the kingdom in particular and in the region in general, given Jordan’s geostrategic location and role as a safety valve for the region. 

Unipath: How does Jordan cooperate with international organizations to prepare for the threat of weapons of mass destruction?

Brig. Gen. Kayed Al-Jaarat: Jordan is constantly striving to make the Middle East a WMD-free zone and is committed to supporting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It works with the international community to ensure adherence to the treaty and implementation of its provisions. Similarly, Jordan’s participation in the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament and its hosting of the initiative’s 2021 Ministerial Conference and participation in all of its meetings is clear proof of Jordan’s tireless work alongside relevant international organizations.  

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