AMMAN, Jordan – A German shepherd sniffed suitcases in an airport inspection drill, excited, pause in the vicinity of a bag from a handler, then pulled out a bag with plastic explosives.
The exercise on the compound of the Jordanian police canine unit, for the visitors this week, is part of the US State Department, the growing Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program.
The agency is spending $300 million this year to train and equip the interior forces in the partner countries — so far 21 out of a pool of 56 — to improve the security of AMERICAN diplomats and citizens abroad.
In Jordan, an important U.S. ally in a tumultuous region, this includes the training of more explosives-sniffing dogs for airport duty, aimed at the gates of the US bound flights, and the establishment of cyber security training for local law enforcement agencies.
In the past few years, Jordan has upgraded its battle against the militants and the criminals in a large portion of the AMERICAN aid, the establishment of a national emergency call center, a network of street surveillance cameras and databases for DNA, ballistics and fingerprints.
Paul Davies, the head of the ATA, said training has paid off.
“I know that the teams that we’ve trained, whether it’s a dog team or a crisis response team for the Public Security Directorate … all have detected and disrupted terrorist plots, weapons, and explosives that may have been attempted to be smuggled across the border,” he said in an interview late Tuesday in the capital of Jordan, Amman.
Jordan’s interest in Washington proved last month when the kingdom was promised $1.275 billion per year in the U.S. economic and military aid on the basis of 2022, an increase of 27 percent — while President Donald Trump had threatened to punish countries that do not agree with the AMERICAN policy in the Middle East. In December, Jordan had voted at the United Nations condemning the USA for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Davies said decisions on foreign aid are elsewhere in the State Department, but that in his eight months on the job, he has seen an increase in the fight against terrorism financing.
Jordan faces internal and external threats of the extremists, even though the once mighty Islamic State militants are largely defeated in the neighbouring countries Syria and Iraq.
Jordan’s economic woes such as high unemployment, have fertile ground for militant recruitment. The government has arrested large numbers of alleged militant sympathizers, but critics say that this is not in the underlying causes of the lack of economic opportunities and a closed political system.
The Associated Press was given rare access this week to the Jordanian law enforcement centers, such as the forensic lab and the call center. The retired AMERICAN law enforcement officers mentoring Jordanian counterparts, said the local facilities are largely similar to those in the US.
The call center is housed in a huge castle-like building on the edge of Amman.
In a large room, phones were ringing non-stop call-takers responded to the complaints and calamities, with an average of 30,000 calls come in every day.
Said a man in a car was blocking an exit at an Amman hospital. He gave the registration number and the coordinator sent a patrol car. A line is reserved for calls by foreign embassies, which are given priority, said Brig. Scary. Rami al-Dabbas, the director of the centre.
Live footage from the street surveillance cameras being streamed on the screens mounted on a wall.
Al-Dabbas said 720 cameras that currently have coverage of Amman and major venues elsewhere, including the tourism sites, but that he must still have 3,000 until the entire capital.
In the end, close to 11,000 cameras to cover the kingdom, he said, adding that the lack of funding is the keeping of such plans.
In one room, the coordinators were randomly check license plates displayed on the security cameras against a database of wanted vehicles. Fifteen drones are used for surveillance, including illegal hunters, with six already in operation, al-Dabbas said.
Security analyst Amer Sabaileh said that he had not expected that the public pushback to the installation of the monitoring. Crime is on the rise and the majority of Jordanians feel security trumps privacy, ” he said.
Al-Dabbas said that his center is one of the most advanced in the region, although a number of other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, have also advanced street supervision.
In the united arab emirates, surveillance footage helped authorities identify the woman who stabbed an American schoolteacher to death in Abu Dhabi mall in 2014. It has also helped Dubai police in identifying the members of what they described as an Israeli hit squad that killed an agent of the Palestinian militant Hamas group in 2010.
Jordan’s crime lab, meanwhile, is expanding its databases. It has about 1.5 million sets of fingerprints, or almost a fourth of the Jordan citizens, together with 150,000 DNA samples of criminal suspects and thousands of ballistic examples that help in the solving of dozens of cold cases per month.
Lt.-Col. Mohammed al-Dajeh, head of training in the criminal investigation department of the Jordan police, said he has seen an overlap between criminal and terrorist networks. Terrorists are looking for funding often in the crime and some of the militants have a criminal past, he said.
At the dog unit on the outskirts of Amman, German shepherds demonstrated their powers of perception. The dogs smoking from explosives hidden in the petrol tank of a car, under a fake rock along a sidewalk and in a suitcase.
The ATA program has trained 39 handler-dog teams, said Davies. In the next few months, five teams will be trained for special airport duty, the snort of laptops and mobile phones of the passengers on board direct flights from Jordan to New York, Chicago and Detroit. Airports in Egypt and Morocco will also these security checks, he said.
The dogs are not on the electronics directly, out of respect for the local cultural and religious sensitivities, said Lt.-Col. Ali al-Khaldi of the dog unit. He said that the police will search for a religious ruling of a Muslim cleric on how to deal with the police dogs.