Pentagon nominee vows to resolve Jordan arms sales delays

  • World
  • Thursday, 05 Feb 2015

Jordan's King Abdullah awaits to meet with members of the Senate Appropriations Committee in Washington February 3, 2015. Islamic State militants released a video on Tuesday appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burnt alive, and Jordan promised to avenge his death. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's nominee for defence secretary on Wednesday vowed to cut through "red tape" slowing U.S. arms deliveries to Jordan, which plans to step up its fight against Islamic State after the killing of a captured Jordanian pilot.

Ashton Carter, a former No. 2 Pentagon official, told the Senate Armed Services Committee it was important for Jordan to be able to acquire the weapons it needed, and he would work to address concerns raised by King Abdullah during a meeting with committee members on Tuesday.

"We need partners on the ground to beat ISIS," Carter told the committee during a hearing on his nomination, adding that Jordan need help in fighting a "savage and nasty" foe.

Jordan on Wednesday said it would intensify its efforts to fight Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, after the release of a video said to show the pilot being burned alive in a cage. Abdullah cut short a visit to Washington after the release of the video.

U.S. Senator John McCain, chairman of the committee, said King Abdullah had told senators at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday that Jordan was unable to get military equipment it needed in a timely fashion, sometimes for as long as a year. All 26 members of his committee signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday urging them to send Amman everything it needs immediately.

McCain said the committee would also consider proposing legislation if needed to achieve goals outlined by the king during his meeting with committee members.

Carter told the hearing he was not familiar with the specific concerns raised by Abdullah but would address the issue promptly if confirmed as defence secretary.

He said he knew well how unnecessary "red tape" could slow deliveries of equipment, and had seen similar issues regarding weapons needed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan during his previous jobs in the Pentagon.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was not aware of specific requests made by Jordan for additional weapons, but the Obama administration would consider any request submitted.

Carter said he could "well believe" that arms deliveries to Jordan were proceeding slower than King Abdullah or U.S. officials found acceptable.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. government had signed a memorandum of understanding that would significantly increase U.S. assistance to Jordan. She said she was not aware of any bottlenecks in delivering weapons.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Jeff Mason and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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