The jihadists’ success in pulling off two attacks in two weeks in Jordan - one in the center and the other in the north near the Syrian border, attests to several networks in play across a widely spaced-out region.
The terrorist attack that ISIS carried out on the Jordan-Syria border on Tuesday, June 21, in which a suicide bomber blew up the vehicle he was driving against a Jordanian border patrol, seriously alarmed Amman, Washington and Jerusalem on five counts:
1. The terrorist, who killed six Jordanian soldiers, came from inside Jordan, not across the border from Syria, meaning that ISIS had succeeded in setting up a terror network or networks inside the kingdom.
Suspicion was first raised after the June 6 attack on Jordanian intelligence headquarters in Ain el-Basha near Amman, in which five intelligence officers were killed, by the absence of any claim of responsibility. It now transpires that the ISIS commanders in Jordan had decided to leave no traces for the national security and intelligence services to follow in their investigation.
2. The jihadists’ success in pulling off two attacks in two weeks in Jordan - one in the center and the other in the north near the Syrian border, attests to several networks in play across a widely spaced-out region.
3. The attack on Tuesday took place tellingly at Ruqban, where a large exercise by a new brigade of the Jordanian military established to fight ISIS has been taking place for the last few days. The brigade, the first of its kind among Middle Eastern armies, is armed and trained by US counterterrorism advisors, and its structure modeled on that of the ISIS military. The entire brigade travels in new Toyota minivans atop which heavy guns are fixed.
The exercise is therefore preparing for both Jordanian and ISIS forces to fight by means of fast-moving armed convoys when they engage in their next battle in the desert areas between Jordan, Iraq and Syria.
But the Jordanians will have the advantage of air cover by attack helicopters.
That ISIS penetrated the site of a joint Jordanian-US military drill with a truck bomb attests to the upgrading of ISIS operational capabilities in the kingdom.
4. debkafile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources estimate that about 3,000 Jordanians have now joined ISIS and are fighting in its ranks. These homegrown terrorists have the family connections and local knowledge that enable them to move easily around the country. Most ISIS religious leaders and mentors are likewise locals, another advantage for drawing new recruits.
5. The Jordanian military, in cooperation with the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, is currently completing a $500-million project to build a 442-kilometer defensive fence on the country’s borders with Syria and Iraq as well as around its bases including those hosting American forces (see map). Its purpose is not only to protect the Hashemite throne, but also to transform the 89,000-square-kilometer kingdom into one of the most important US military outposts in the Middle East in the war against ISIS. The fence will also serve as a barrier between Israel and the forces of ISIS, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Tuesday’s attack, however, raises questions about the entire fence project. Washington and Amman are investing huge sums to keep ISIS out of Jordan when the terrorist peril is creeping up dangerously from within.
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