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Jordan - Jordanian budget spent on "bloated" civil service and a military "patronage system"

José Pérez, 4 February 2011, Wikileaks Staff

Over 80 percent of Jordan’s budget is spent on a "bloated" civil service and a military "patronage system" that includes support to the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to new cables released by Wikileaks, even through the country is in the middle of an economic crisis.

The Jordanian government alsotold U.S. diplomats that despite "increased calls by opposition groups and non-governmental figures to explain its Afghanistan assistance and end its security cooperation with the United States ... Mash’al Al Zaben, Chief of Staff for Strategy, stated that Jordan would stay in Afghanistan until the last U.S. soldier came home."

Last Friday thousands of Jordanians took to streets for the third time to protest rising food prices and cuts in government spending. The protests follow a wave of popular uprisings first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, that reflect the growing dissatisfaction with autocratic governments across the Middle East.

The numbers are dire: Jordan’s deficit hit a record $2 billion this year, while inflation rose six percent and official unemployment figures hit 12.9 percent (unofficial estimates are more than twice as high).

But in a diplomatic memodated January 2010, Stephen Beecroft, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, observed that the Jordanian "2010 budget includes USD 6.74 billion in projected revenues and USD 7.71 billion in expenditures (83 percent of which is accounted for by Jordan’s bloated civil service and military patronage system) and has a USD 1.4 billion deficit before grants, which is 5.8 percent of Jordan’s GDP (estimated at USD 24.7 billion for 2010).

The documents also provide previously unknown details of Jordan’s military support to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. “Jordan has already made a significant contribution of forces in Afghanistan (ref B), currently numbered at 850 troops, which includes an infantry battalion, a special operations company, and a field hospital" wrote the ambassador. "Prince Faisal and Minister Hasan will likely make a number of offers for increased participation in Afghanistan. Prince Faisal and Minister Hasan will likely make a number of offers for increased participation in Afghanistan,” the cable adds. http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2010/01/1...

The diplomatic cables also list new contributions that Washington has requested from the government of Jordan such as “Fighter Jets and Helicopters — In previous meetings, Prince Faisal has offered to send F-16 fighter jets and UH-60 helicopters with pilots to conduct combat missions.”

“Additional Ground Forces — Senior Jordanian military officials have in the past mentioned their interest in making sizeable increases in their contribution of ground forces in Afghanistan, and recently reaffirmed their interest to the U.K. and NATO officials.”

“Additional Field Hospital — Prince Faisal and Minister Hasan will offer to send an additional military field hospital to Afghanistan. Jordan already operates one hospital in Qalat, Afghanistan which has treated over 750,000 patients since 2003. Jordan also maintains field hospitals in Fallujah, Iraq and in Gaza, and will soon open one in Haiti (ref A).”

“Training for Afghan Clerics — Minister Hasan has indicated an interest in offering a one-year training program for Afghan clerics and religious leaders in moderate Islam to counter extremist ideologies.”

“Police Training — Prince Faisal and Minister Hasan will offer to train Afghan National Police (ANP) at training facilities in Jordan or by sending Mobile Training Teams (MTT) to Afghanistan.”

“Special Operations Training — Prince Faisal may offer to train Afghan counter-terrorism (CT) or special operations forces (SOF).”

Despite these requests, the economic crisis has taken its toll: one year after the memo was written, the number of Jordanian personnel in Afghanistan appears to have dwindled: today ISAF´s website lists Jordan as having only six active troops