Privatization for Obfuscation: military training in Jordan

KASOTC facility. Image from wikipedia

US military aid to Washington’s key ally in the region –  Jordan – has risen to a staggering $463m in 2016 alone. But little is known about how this money is spent. Who benefits? And who or what is secured by US military funding?

The King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre (KASOTC) is the centrepiece of US-Jordanian counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation. It not only offers a base for the training of international Special Forces and Jordanian border guards, but also for military adventure holidays, corporate leadership programmes, and stunt training for actors. While war at KASOTC is an interactive and consumable event for affluent customers, it engenders deadly realities for others.

Following Jordanian approval of a political-military agreement concerning the use of the facility, the US provided $99m of military assistance for the construction of the centre, accounting for a third of the total US military aid to Jordan in 2005. While KASOTC was built by the Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Programs Center, it is owned by the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF), and managed by the Maryland-based limited liability company ViaGlobal.

The ViaGlobal staff based at KASOTC have US military background. Also the board of the company almost exclusively consists of retired US military personnel. Although KASOTC thereby comes close to operating as a US army training centre, its business structure allows both the US and the Jordanian governments to insist that there are indeed no foreign military training centres in the country

According to one ViaGlobal employee, in 2013, 60 percent of the revenues earned at KASOTC came from the training of US soldiers and 20 percent from the training of Jordanian forces.  KASOTC offers its customers what its construction manager imagined to be an environment that is just like what soldiers might encounter with terrorists. Besides a fake Afghan village, a real Airbus 300, a mock city, and a sniper range, KASOTC also features its own artificial refugee camp. The simulation of a typical terrorist environment is further enhanced by the use of thousands of sound and smell effects, fog generators, and rooftop explosions…

As part of its Annual Warrior Competition, KASOTC for instance invitesSpecial Forces units from all over the world to what its business manager, a former US marine, in 2013 aptly called the Olympics of Special Forces.   The event itself primarily serves PR purposes and is sponsored by international weapons producers. In return for their sponsoring, the latter can directly showcase their products to the participating units.

Excerpts from Benjamin Schuetze, Jordan’s KASOTC: Privatising anti-terror training, AlJazeera, July 17, 2018

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