US lawmakers push for increased military aid to Jordan

'We've got to get them weapons that they need,' said Sen. John McCain.

'We've got to get them weapons that they need,' said Sen. John McCain.

WASHINGTON – A group of U.S. lawmakers is urging the Obama administration to approve increased military aid to Jordan as the country reels from a recording purported to show the burning execution of one of its pilots.

All 26 members of the Senate Armed Service Committee directly appealed to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to expedite arms shipments in a letter sent Wednesday.

They said while Abdullah expressed gratitude for continued U.S. assistance, "we were concerned to hear from the king that Jordan is experiencing complications and delays in obtaining certain types of military equipment through our foreign military sales system."  

They said Abdullah requested additional aircraft parts, night vision equipment and precision munitions to help secure its border and carry out air missions in Syria.

“Jordan’s situation and the cohesiveness of the coalition demands we move with speed to ensure they receive the military material they require for ongoing operations against ISIL,” the senators said.

The White House said that it has not yet received a specific request for additional weaponry from Jordan, but would evaluate one should it be received.

“We certainly would consider anything that they were to put forward, but I do think that what would drive a decision like that is a specific request from our partners in Jordan,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

The Obama administration requested Tuesday a near doubling of annual aid to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion for the next two years, in part to boost the country’s security efforts.

Congress must sign off on the increase, and lawmakers have quickly voiced support for providing the country with additional arms.

“We've got to get them weapons that they need,” Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, said during an interview with CNN. "We’ll be looking at legislation that we could pass rapidly through both houses of Congress." 

“Our resolve should be to give them all of the military equipment that they need to do the job and get it to them as quickly as possible,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, who sits on the same committee, during an interview with MSNBC.

The ramping up of funding comes as Jordan’s neighbors, Iraq and Syria, have lost considerable territory to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Jordan has been one of the U.S.’s key coalition allies in the fight against the extremist group, contributing aircraft for bombing missions against ISIL. One of its pilots, Moaz al-Kasasabeh, was captured by ISIL after his F-16 jet went down near the group’s Syria stronghold of Raqqah in December.

ISIL supporters released a video Tuesday on the Internet that appears to show Kasasbeh being burnt alive on the Internet while Jordan’s King Abdullah II was on a previously schedule trip to Washington.

Abdullah met with the White House and Congress, including the House and Senate Armed Services committee, before cutting short his trip to return to Jordan.

McCain said that the king voiced frustration with Washington about the slow pace with which arms were being sent to the Hashemite Kingdom, and that it has prevented Jordan from doing “some of the things they’ve wanted to do, and that they particularly are going to want to do now given the horrific impact of this on the Jordanian people.”

Rep. Mac Thornberry, McCain’s House counterpart, said Abdullah “gave us kind of a laundry list of things he needs, like fuel, and munitions, and equipment, and he expressed frustration that it takes so long for our bureaucracy to get something approved.” 

“The best thing we can do is to show some victories here versus this cult,” he said referring to ISIL during an interview with MSNBC.

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