May 21st, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Inside Jordan's elite fighting force

Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan.  Read all her reporting here

By Barbara Starr

On top of a desert mountain military post 20 minutes outside the Jordanian capitol of Amman, we are silently greeted by soldiers clad fully in black, heads and faces masked by balaclavas, carrying assault rifles.

There is no enemy here. But for Jordan's 71st Counter Terrorism Battalion, it does not matter. They pride themselves on being one of the premier special operations units among U.S. allies in the Middle East, and so every day, even on their home base, they are ready to fight.

Recommended: Tense times on Jordan's border with Syria

The battalion is taking part in Eager Lion, a massive international military exercise being staged in Jordan and involving some 12,000 troops from 19 nations.

Lt. Col. Raad Amairah, the commander, tells us these days his men are prepared to fight potential attackers inside Jordan and to deploy to other countries as well, if needed. Jordanian counter terrorism units such as the 71st have made repeated deployments to Afghanistan, for example.

But with the potential for trouble brewing on Jordan's northern border with Syria, Amairah says his troops know it could affect them.

"Of course we worry because the situation gets worse and worse every day," he says.

The lieutenant colonel won't discuss specifics when it comes to Syria, but separately Security Clearance has learned that Jordan has already arrested suspected Syrian intelligence agents coming across the border as part of the refugee exodus in recent months, and deported them back to Syria.

Jordanian government sources directly familiar with what has happened believe the Syrians are trying to step up their intelligence gathering inside Jordan in an attempt to see what the kingdom may be prepared to do if even low-level conflict breaks out.

That's the type of conflict the battalion is training for it, if it happens. As part of Eager Lion, as well as their regular training, the troops practice for sniper operations, precision shooting at all distances, and assaulting compounds.

By training with U.S. special operations forces, as well as other nations here for Eager Lion, they gain the additional benefit of training just as they would fight in the field, as a coalition force.

The commander remains unflappable, telling us the growing threats don't bother him or his men.

"It gives us more guts and courage on a daily basis," he says.

soundoff (38 Responses)
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    August 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  3. sjdsh

    Operation "Eager Liars" 2012

    May 24, 2012 at 2:50 am | Reply
  4. Hassan

    I really like how some comments say that muslims are stupid. I also like how the talk about things Muslims believe or do just as if they were Muslim scholars themselves. Why do you even think that you comments or words are worth anything, to anyone? I am wondering why CNN doesn't monitor comments properly.

    May 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  5. Everett Wallace

    Well alrighty then.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  6. Norman R. Canuck

    Taken on Monday? May 14th? The date on the satellite imagery shows March 5th. Odd. Really Odd.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Reply
  7. Hasher Iva

    I've spent some time in Amman. Jordan has a very large Syrian and Palestinian refugee population. And the Jordanians are very aware of them. I've also worked with the Jordanian military. They are as professional, well equipped and well trained as any I've seen. I'd much rather have them on my side than against me.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
    • ceciel

      No specific decision had been made to capture any other territories controlled by Jordan. After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to dig in to hold it. When an armored brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. It was only after intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan River that Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank.[81] According to Narkis:

      First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it.

      Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem's security emerged.

      This is truly how things happened on June 5, although it is difficult to believe. The end result was something that no one had planned.[92]

      May 21, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Reply
      • ceciel

        intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan River that Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank.[81] According to Narkis

        jordain troops ran away from the west bank , muslim troops are worth shiit

        May 21, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  8. Carlos Villegas Sánchez

    ISAÍAS 1:15-16, SANTIAGO 5:1-6. Y SINCERAMENTE, LA IRA DE JEHOVÁ ES CONTRA TODA “LA RAZA POLÍTICA”, PORQUE CON BARBAS O SIN BARBAS, NADIE, NADIE, NADIE, NADIE JAMÁS, HA DICHO, AL INICIAR SUS PALABRAS: ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡EN EL NOMBRE DULCE Y PODEROSO DE NUESTRO SEÑOR JESUCRISTO!!!!!!!!!!!!. JEHOVÁ VA ATACAR CON PLAGAS, LEAN LABIBLIA.
    satanás, DÓNDE QUIERAS QUE ESTÉS INSERTADO, EN EL PETRÓLEO, EN LAS MINAS DE ORO, EN LAS FUNDACIONES, EN LOS AEROPUERTO, EN LAS PLAYAS PARADISÍACAS, EN LAS ISLAS, EN LOS AUTOS DE CARRERA, EN LAS MUJERES QUE DESTILAN EL VERDADERO Y GENUINO AMOR, EN EL VATICANO, EN LA TORRE EIFEL, EN EL PENTÁGONO, EN LOS DIAMANTES ENSANGRENTADOS, EN EL COLISEO, EN LOS ESTADIOS, EN LAS TORRES PETRONAS, EN LA MURALLA CHINA, EN LA INDIA, EN EL ALGODÓN, EN EL AZÚCAR, EN EL CAFÉ, EN LA COCAÍNA, EN LA INDUSTRIA FARMACEÚTICA, EN LOS COLEGIOS, EN LAS PIRÁMIDES, DONDE TE ENCUESTRES, CIELO, MAR, TIERRA, DONDE TE ARRANQUES, DE AHÍ, JEHOVÁ, JESUCRISTO, Y EL ESPÍRITU SANTO, QUIEN ES EL DIOS DE “TODO” DE AHÍ TE HA DERRIBADO, DE AHÍ TE DERRIBA, DE AHÍ TE DERRIBARÁ, “””SIEMPRE”””, PORQUE JESUCRISTO ES EL ÚNICO QUE PUEDE ABRIR Y CERRAR EL LIBRO DE LA VIDA. TRIUNFÓ CON PODER, CON “ABSOLUTO” PODER SOBRE TU MENTIRA. THE PRICE OIL OR DOWN OR JEHOVÁ DO FALL TO CADA UNO DE THE MEMBER OF FAMILY OF HAMAD, BECAUSE YOUR NAME JEHOVÁ AND ALL ANGELS LOOK OF SKY, AND WHILE YOU HAMAD DON´T SAY THAT: THE NAME OVER ALL NAME, INCLUSIVE OVER MY NAME IS “OUR” JESUCRISTO, THE KING OF KING, THE DOCTOR OF DOCTOR, THE SANADOR AND SALVADOR OF ALL HUMANITY, INCLUSIVE OF YOU AND ALL FAMILY, LOOR OF LOOR, “CEFAS” ANGULAR RECHAZADA POR LOS CONSTRUCTORS, NOW IS DO THE LAST “LLAMADO”, OR THE PRICE OIL DOWN, OR THE “DEATH” TO BEGINS TO “ACECHAR” ALL THE THAT YOU KNOW THAT IS YOUR PROPIETARY, BECAUSE ALLL THE PERTENECE A JEHOVÁ DE LOS EJERCITOS, THE PROBLEM MAYOR IN THE WORLD IS THE PRICE OIL, BECAUSE ALL PRODUCT ARE VERY EXPENSIVE, AND CHAVEZ, AND CIA, AND YOU, AND CRISTINA FERNANDEZ, AND ALL THE PLACE IN THE CUALES IS PRODUCER PETROLEUM, IN THE LOVE OF JESUCRISTO, IN THE LAST LLAMADA, IF NOT CHANGE YOUR CORAZÓN OF “CEFAS”, FOR A HEART OF “CARNE” YOUR “MORIRÁN”. JEHOVÁ, JESUCRISTO, Y EL ESPÍRITU SANTO THE BLESS YOUR FOR ALWAYS.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
    • juanmoretime

      Dejate de m.amadas y apegate al tema, FANATICO!

      May 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  9. Danny

    Jordan and Israel have a peace treaty. I see no reason for mentioning war!
    However, and for the record, Israeli military commanders acknowledged the valor and bravery of Jordan armed forces in all wars both fought in. Read their books and you'll see for yourself.
    Peace for all!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  10. Tony

    The whole Middle East is having a shake up crises. Jordan be better prepared of what is coming, syria problems is spilling on every front; Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. The condition will escalete more and more as long as the USA and the west are idle watching Assad Massacre his people. Not any single dictator in the region is immune against this wave. This is a wake up call for Israeli to better think about a pace plan with arab neighbors. Building a wall is not going to protect them. So far the luck was with israel but this will change in any minute.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  11. razollla

    its great that they have elite force,like rest of arab nations ,as long as these arab nations cannot UNITE ,all their elites are just a sacrificial lambs,and show ...

    May 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  12. ??????????

    These guys are muppets compared to Sayeret Matkal.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • Alex, Israel

      With all due respect, how would you know? And what's the point of your comment besides inciting hatred?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Reply
      • Lohas

        Thank You Alex!!!

        May 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  13. kkx

    I just wanna say it looks stupid and get rid of it

    May 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  14. frank sol

    It's an elite force against their own.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  15. Laura Bradley

    How can Jordan have a serious elite force when they've never been in a war?

    May 21, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • Papa Schultz

      Jordan has been fighting in every war against Israel ! The former Jordanian "Arab Legion" of Glubb Pacha was considered best ME soldiers in the 50's.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:53 am | Reply
      • jacob

        not in 1973.

        May 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
      • wasso

        That's why they lost the West Bank ?

        May 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
      • ceciel

        The former Jordanian "Arab Legion" of Glubb Pacha was considered best ME soldiers in the 50's.

        yah well its not the 1950s , and muslims are only good at killing fellow muslims ,

        "we prefer death while you prefer life" ..hahahahaha stupid muslims

        May 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • suhaib

      read the history of jordan first then comment about it .

      May 23, 2012 at 2:56 am | Reply
    • zeid farrah

      go to wikipedia and see how many wars we have been in if your to lazy i'll tell you Arab–Israeli War (1948-1949)
      Retribution operations (1950s)
      Six-Day War (1967)
      War of Attrition (1967-1970)
      Battle of Karameh (1968)
      Black September (1970)
      Yom Kippur War (1973)
      Libyan Civil War (2011)
      International military intervention against ISIL (2014-present)
      2015 military intervention in Yemen (2015)

      January 30, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Reply

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