Jordan and the United States unveiled a counterterrorism training center south of Amman on Thursday aimed at boosting the capacity of local forces in a region beset by conflict.
The new facility, part of the Jordan Gendarmerie Training Academy, was opened in Suwaqah, 70 kilometres (43 miles) from the Jordanian capital. It was funded, constructed, and equipped through the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program.
It aims to prepare security forces to cope with crisis management, hostage-taking, cyberterrorism, explosive incident countermeasures, post-blast investigations, and tactical medicine.
Once fully operational, the new training center will double ATA’s regional counterterrorism training capacity in Jordan.
“The Anti-Terrorism Assistance programme for Jordan is ongoing and very important to us,” Michael T. Evanoff, the U.S. 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.
Paul Davies, director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Anti-Terrorism Assistance, said additional training centers are to be built, including in Senegal and Kenya, the Associated Press reported.
It is the second center of its kind to be launched by the U.S. and Jordan, one of the strongest allies of the U.S. in the Middle East.
They previously opened the King Abdullah II training centre for special operations in Zarqa, east of Amman, in 2009. Davis said 21 partner nations have trained in this facility.
Last month, the U.S. pledged $1.2 billion in annual aid to Jordan from 2018 to 2022.
It was the first such agreement between the two countries since U.S. President Donald Trump took office last year.
Under the memorandum, the U.S. will provide at least $750 million per year in economic assistance and $350 million 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 the United Nations refugee agency 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.
This story was updated on March 22 with additional information.
With reporting from AFP