For over 10 years now, Jordan has faced great challenges on its northern border, which have been threatening its security and stability, and draining its resources. The ongoing crisis and the repercussions of regional wars in have exacerbated the dangers Jordan has long been subjected to, such as the threat of terrorism and drug smuggling groups, and this calls for the concerted efforts of the military, governmental and civil society institutions, media and experts in the field to address this threat.
Today, the Jordanian Armed Forces and the Anti-Narcotics Department are waging a battle on two fronts. One is external and entails a resolute confrontation with drug smugglers who use Jordan as a transit country on the way to other countries, starting from the Syrian border; the other is internal and entails addressing the increasing spread of drug abuse and spread, as well as social and psychological issues that may lead to drug use, such as the deteriorating economic situation, worsened by the crises Jordan, like the rest of the world, has been going through.
This is precisely what prompted the Executive Office of the National Anti-Narcotics Committee, which has as member the National Alliance for Combating Narcotics in Jordan, affiliated to the Forum for Supporting the Justice Sector, emanating from the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) and Durrat Al Manal for Development and Training, to arrange a special visit to the northeastern border on June 6, 2022, to get acquainted with the action mechanism of the border guards in their war against drug smugglers. The visit was part of the activities of the Executive Office and the National Alliance for Combating Narcotics, and took place within the framework of the celebrations of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which falls on June 29.
The commander of the Martyr King Abdullah I Mechanized Brigade/ 90, said that the eastern military region is the first line of defense of Jordan, stressing that the events in Syria constituted an additional burden on the armed forces, due to the insecurity in this country and the lack of coordination and cooperation between Jordan and Syria.
The commander said that lately, the Jordanian army had to deal with violent armed smugglers whose numbers could reach dozens and who used new tactics to carry out their operations, making use of organized crime gangs and using drones, vehicles and lethal weapons.
He added that smugglers are called “porters”, meaning those who transport smuggled goods from Syria to Jordan in return for a fee for each load, and that most of these people are youth.
An Intelligence officer said that many groups that manufacture, transport and store drugs near the Jordanian border, to facilitate the smuggling into Jordan, have been monitored.
He added that drug-smuggling groups use various methods to carry out their operations, including the use of heavy machinery and drones loaded with narcotics, in addition to monitoring and reconnaissance of the Jordanian armed forces deployment sites, and carrying out fake operations to divert attention.
According to him, many smuggling networks that spread and operate within the southern Syrian region, where a lot of smuggling attempts have been thwarted since the beginning of the year, have been monitored. Some 20 million Fenethylline pills, 20,000 cannabis blocks, and 78,000 Tramadol pills have been captured and the army killed and arrested dozens of smugglers.
Regarding the mechanism, the rules of engagement with these groups and networks, the battalion commander of the Royal Border Guards/4 said that one of the battalion’s most important responsibilities is to prevent all forms of infiltration and smuggling to and from Jordan, and to that end, the border guards pass all information to all those concerned. One of the biggest challenges facing the battalion, he said, is the weather: in winter due to the appearance of fog and in summer due to the spread of dust.
The commander of the 1st Border Guard Brigade of the Frontier Guards/4 Royal Brigade said that one method of dealing with infiltrators is the “ambush”, which begins with monitoring initial information about infiltration attempts across the border, and then dealing with anyone who approaches the barbed wire.
Retired Major General Tayel Al Majali, head of the National Alliance for Combating Narcotics in Jordan, former director of the Anti Narcotics Department, said: “The Jordanian Armed Forces is the shield of the nation, which contributes to protecting the Jordanian families from the drugs, and they also had a great credit for protecting the region from this dangerous problem.”
He added that there are about 450 drug factories in Syria, specifically in the areas close to our borders, and they are managed by organized groups that are heavily armed and have big funds, adding that their first goal is to flood the Arab region with drugs.
Manal Al-Wazani, executive director of the Durrat Al Manal for Development and Training, member of the National Alliance for Combating Narcotics in Jordan, praised the openness of the border guards to the civil society and human rights organizations, and to media institutions, and said that the visit was “a unique journey that enabled those visiting to get acquainted with the difficulties that the Jordanian government faces in combating drugs,” adding that she was not aware of the width of the northern border and the dangers it is exposed to.
Nazir Al Awamleh, the government’s Coordinator for Human Rights in the Prime Minister’s Office, member of the National Alliance for Combating Narcotics in Jordan, expressed appreciation for the efforts made by the Jordanian government and armed forces to face the dangers threatening the country’s northern border, and urged civil society institutions to continue their work and coordinate to respond to the crises facing Jordan.
Riad al Sobh, member of the alliance, asked whether the smuggling operations had a political or commercial purpose, and said it is important for the Jordanian and Syrian sides to return to security cooperation to confront drug dealers and smugglers
Dr. Khawla Al Hassan, a specialist in criminology, member of the alliance, stressed the importance of concerted efforts among all to curb the spread and abuse of drugs, as well as the importance of strengthening the deterrent aspect in a scientific and thoughtful manner, in order for addicts not to turn to using drugs again.
The economic challenges and the absence of a ready community infrastructure to deal with all these challenges make it necessary to develop a plan or strategy that includes all stakeholders, with the aim of reducing the spread of drugs, enhance coordination and provide the tools needed to tackle this problem.
The National Alliance for Combating Narcotics in Jordan began, several months ago, to develop a plan that brings together all those concerned about this problem to discuss, to raise institutional awareness about all aspects and developments in this area, and to develop a collective vision for possible solutions. But much more is required to respond to all the internal and regional crises, to not waste the opportunities to fix the problem, and to prepare Jordan, indeed all countries in the region, to be ready to deal with the social repercussions of these crises.