With little fanfare, the trial of a Jordanian soldier accused of the premeditated killing of three U.S. Green Berets began in early June. The incident, which occurred in November at the entrance of Al Jafr air base in south Jordan, has received relatively scant press coverage in the United States and in the kingdom. Yet the lack of attention belies the significance of the killings and the outcome of the trial.
Jordan is Washington’s best Arab ally in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) and is the second-leading recipient of U.S. economic and military assistance. But during a one-year span beginning in mid-November 2015, more Americans in uniform were killed in so-called green-on-blue killings in Jordan than in Afghanistan. Not only have the killings proved an embarrassment for Amman, in Jordan’s tribal society, the ongoing trial of one alleged perpetrator is a political minefield for the king.
On November 4, three vehicles carrying U.S. Special Forces members tasked with training moderate Syrian opposition fighters in Jordan attempted to enter Al Jafr military base. The cars were waved through the external gate, but then, according to the official Jordanian narrative, as the vehicles were waiting to clear the internal checkpoint, a shot was fired (or a car backfired) and a guard, Corporal Ma’arek Abu Tayeh, responded by opening fire on the first vehicle with his M-16 rifle.
One U.S. soldier was killed instantly; two other troops from the convoy identified themselves and fled. Nevertheless, over the next six and a half minutes, they were hunted down and executed at close range. Abu Tayeh was eventually critically wounded by a shot from a U.S. soldier whose car had earlier cleared the gates.
Amman reacted defensively to the shootings. Days after the incident, Jordanian authorities publicly blamed the U.S. soldiers for not following proper security procedures, including not stopping and properly identifying themselves. Some Jordanian officials even whispered that alcohol had been involved.
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