US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre


Amman (AFP)

Jordan and the United States unveiled a counterterrorism training centre south of Amman on Thursday aimed at boosting the capacity of local forces in a region beset by conflict.

The centre connected to the Jordanian Police Academy was opened in Suwaqah, 70 kilometres (43 miles) from the Jordanian capital.

It aims to prepare security forces to cope with crisis management, hostage-taking, cyberterrorism and the detection of explosives.

"The anti-terrorism assistance programme for Jordan is ongoing and very important to us," Michael T. Evanoff, the US deputy secretary of state for diplomatic security, told reporters at the opening ceremony.

"The training saves lives and helps build the capacity of the host country. I am very happy to open this centre, and I look forward to its expansion and use as a central hub," he said.

It is the second centre of its kind to be launched by the US and Jordan, one of the strongest allies of the United States in the Middle East.

They previously opened the King Abdullah II training centre for special operations in Zarqa, east of Amman, in 2009.

Last month, the United States pledged $1.2 billion (810 million euros) in annual aid to Jordan from 2018 to 2022.

It was the first such agreement between the two countries since US President Donald Trump took office last year.

Under the memorandum, the US will provide at least $750 million (609 million euros) a year in economic assistance and $350 million (284 million euros) in military aid.

Jordan hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, placing a heavy strain the country's economy.

According to the UN High Committee for Refugees (UNHCR), about 650,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Jordan since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

Jordanian authorities say they host 1.3 million Syrian refugees and estimate that the war has cost the kingdom $10 billion (8.1 billion euros).