Cooperation on the Seas

Staff Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Alnaimat describes the regional role of the royal Jordanian Navy


Staff Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Alnaimat

The Royal Jordanian Navy plays an important role in protecting Jordan’s territorial waters. It maintains security in the Gulf of Aqaba by cooperating with Royal Saudi Naval Forces and the Egyptian Navy. In addition, the Jordanian Navy participates in Combined Maritime Force’s Combined Task Force 152 to combat piracy along the coast of the Red Sea, which has a positive impact on global maritime security. Unipath interviewed Royal Jordanian Navy Cmdr. Staff Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Alnaimat during the August 2017 Regional Marine Symposium (RMS) hosted in Jordan. He spoke about the role and achievements of the Navy.

Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Alnaimat: First of all, I would like to welcome the Unipath team. It is a great opportunity to have it here at the headquarters of the Jordanian Navy during RMS 17, hosted in Aqaba for the first time, which highlights the strategic relations at the political and military level between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the United States. It is the duty of our nations’ armed forces to interpret the goals of our political leaders and implement them for the benefit of our nations. In Jordan, we are always proud of our relationship with our American friends, which reflects strategic coordination and cooperation in the Middle East’s political and security realms. This region has witnessed difficult years of disturbances in many arenas, including economic and political instability that led a few countries to suffer internal conflict and violence, and some others to fall under the control of terrorist groups. Therefore, we must maintain our strategic relationship with our partners, teaming up to train together during peace to improve readiness to face any challenges and protect our homelands. As Jordanians, we happily seize chances to train within the region, because Jordan is such a small country with limited resources. That said, Jordan has well-trained and professional Armed Forces in all its branches that are comparable with the world’s most advanced armies. Our leadership invests heavily in training and preparing the Army to be ready for any task.

The Jordanian Marines have successfully partnered with U.S. Marines in training and rearmament to benefit from the expertise of our experienced partners in the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps. It was a great opportunity for us to prepare the Jordanian Navy and Marines.

Unipath: How important is it to partner with advanced militaries?

Brig. Gen. Alnaimat: Jordanian Naval Forces are working closely with our partners in the U.S. Navy and Marines, and are delighted with this strategic cooperation. We have sent a group of officers to work with the Joint Marine Task Force in Bahrain and have a liaison officer at the rank of colonel or above to coordinate and exchange information at the headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet. Despite the small size of the Jordanian Naval Forces and the lack of warships that can operate on the high seas, we managed to send a group of Jordanian officers to lead the Combined Task Force 152 for a yearlong mission. It was our honor to succeed the Kuwaiti Navy’s leadership of the task force in September 2016. During this year of leading the task force, the chief of staff, the chief of operations, the head of the department of planning, alternate officers in the operating room and a group of noncommissioned officers are all from Jordan.

On this occasion, I would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to our partners in the coalition forces for their great effort within the region as we work together, exchange experiences and share resources among ourselves. We worked as a team to fulfill our mission; we don’t have the big ships, but we have the maritime experience and the professional fighters who can carry out duties through the use of partnerships and teamwork.

We also have a major role to play within the region in combating piracy in the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden and on the coast of Somalia, where we have prepared seven inspection teams in cooperation with the U.S. Navy. In the past few years, we’ve sent two teams, each of which stays for 90 days and operates on U.S. ships in combined task forces 151 and 152 and has carried out numerous tasks in apprehending pirates. This has been a successful experience for both parties, as we have benefited from the exchange of experience and tactics. This is one of several examples of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s efforts to establish security and stability in the region and to protect global trade.

Unipath: What roles do Jordanian Soldiers perform on American ships? Do they contribute only military experience, or is their knowledge of language and culture also important? 

Brig. Gen. Alnaimat: Knowledge of the language and traditions of the area of operations greatly impacts our approach to understanding and combating the enemy’s mindset and plans. When a group of suspected pirates was arrested near the coast of Somalia, they claimed that they were fishermen and had nothing to do with piracy and terror. At the same time, they were speaking Arabic to each other. One of the Royal Marines listened to their conversation and heard them say that their weapons were hidden under fishing gear; they thought it would be impossible to find them. Thanks to the Jordanian officers, the weapons cache and the communication equipment were found in short order, and the pirates were shocked when the Jordanian officer confronted them with their plans. There are many stories like these that emphasize the benefits of cooperation between friendly forces.

Unipath: As commander of the Royal Jordanian Navy, what kind of challenges do you face?

Brig. Gen. Alnaimat: The Jordanian Navy faces the same threats and challenges as other navies in the region, but some challenges are particular to our country. The biggest challenge is that we have entered a new stage in which the Daesh terrorist organization has been besieged and defeated in the countries of the region, and now its fighters want to escape. We must remain vigilant and deny them access to maritime trade routes they use to smuggle fighters and weapons. We have the power to protect our waterways. For the record, there have been no reported cases of anyone penetrating our territorial waters. In addition, there are some terrorist groups operating in the region that are under substantial military pressure. This may push these groups to seek access to our land by infiltrating our waterways. At the same time, we are closely monitoring the activities of terrorists to prevent them from infiltrating our waters or territory.

Unipath: Jordan is near Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Do these three nations have maritime cooperation agreements to protect these shared waterways?

Brig. Gen. Alnaimat: We have regional cooperation with countries bordering on the Gulf of Aqaba; we connect with them daily and share information. We also have direct contact when necessary and have liaison officers to facilitate the task and achieve our shared goal of preserving the security and stability of the Gulf of Aqaba to make it a crime-free zone.

Unipath: RMS 2017 was a great success, with numerous countries participating and discussing a wide array of topics. What is the significance of the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) participating in an event like this?

Brig. Gen. Alnaimat: Military exercises help participants develop capacity and gain experience. They also give us the chance to learn about different methods and techniques we can use to benefit the JAF. We participate in more than one program and more than one joint exercise.

Furthermore, about 2 1/2 years ago, we formed a great partnership between the Jordanian 77th Royal Marine Battalion and the U.S. Marine Corps. We also have joint training for counterterrorism and piracy teams within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, where they co-train with the Royal Marine Battalion. I also have to recognize the Eager Lion exercise of 2017. This event builds a tremendous bond among participating nations. In addition to unifying all nations’ understanding of military terms and concepts, promoting joint work and helping leadership plan exercises, we develop exercise scenarios to simulate realistic potential threats and ways to combat them. We hope to develop the exercise through the development of new simulations and scenarios. We seek to employ all the capabilities of Jordan in the next exercise, in which civil institutions and the Armed Forces will work together as a team. This kind of collaboration is very important for us to face natural disasters and man-made crises in our region. RMS, which we were honored to host in Aqaba, is the result of the enthusiastic collaboration between the U.S. and Jordanian Marines, which resulted in great success. A large number of our brothers and friends were present to share ideas and proposals to develop training curricula and create professional marine corps capable of confronting the threats in the region. I thank the leadership of the U.S. Marines for its great work in the success and development of this symposium, and I would like to thank our brothers in the region for their attendance and participation. I hope to see greater participation in 2018.

Unipath: What other joint naval exercises has Jordan participated in?

Brig. Gen. Alnaimat: Along with Eager Lion, there are many marine activities in which we participate. At the regional level, there is an annual Jordanian-Egyptian exercise that began in 2015 under the name Aqaba 15 hosted by the Arab Republic of Egypt. Aqaba 16 was hosted in Jordan. This demonstrates the cooperation between Jordanian and Egyptian naval forces to protect multinational trade in the Gulf of Aqaba. Through this exercise, we identify and implement solutions to potential threats that the region may face, and each year, we have a new scenario that corresponds to conventional and nonconventional threats. By nonconventional threats, I mean those relating to terrorism.

Unipath: What advice can you give to naval officers in the area about the importance of the partnership?

Brig. Gen. Alnaimat: My advice — to Jordanians and our allies — is to work together. The threats we face can’t be addressed in the traditional manner through a single state. No country in the world can protect global navigation lanes on its own because that could lead to a protracted war, major losses and the deployment of its troops and weapons in all parts of the world. A more logical idea is to work as a team by using partners’ resources to bolster security. We must have allies and friends to meet all the challenges in the region and in other locations where terrorist threats are a concern. Protecting our borders is the priority; thus, we must work together to devote our capabilities and techniques to each country when necessary. Each state should offer something specific to the rest of the nations to create an integrated force capable of defeating the enemy.