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Wounded nation pulls together

Feb 10,2015 - Last updated at Feb 10,2015

Jordan is a wounded nation in the wake of the brutal execution of Muath Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot who was captured by Islamist militants when his fighter jet crashed near Raqqa, in Syria, on December 24.

Intensive efforts to secure his release reached a dead-end when the so-called Islamic State (IS) refused to provide evidence that he was still alive.

Jordanians feared the worst, but the manner in which Kasasbeh was killed shocked and infuriated the world.

If the militants hoped to divide and intimidate Jordanians, they were wrong. The nation rallied behind its leadership and armed forces as His Majesty King Abdullah vowed to avenge Kasasbeh’s death and hunt down the militants wherever they are.

An angry and saddened nation cheered on as the Kingdom’s air force carried out successive raids against IS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Jordan took the lead in the international and regional coalition fighting the terrorist organisation and the US promised additional military assistance to Amman.

Jordan’s swift reaction was lauded by governments and people all over the world.

The tragic death of Kasasbeh silenced voices that had been questioning Jordan’s participation in the war against IS.

For now, Jordanians accept the fact that this has become their war and that taking the battle to the militants is the only way to make sure that they do not come closer to the Kingdom’s borders.

There is no doubt that Kasasbeh’s death is a turning point for Jordan in its fight against the terrorists. But it is also important to remember that Jordan is part of an international and regional coalition and that coordinated action will be required to win this long and costly war.

King Abdullah outlined the three phases needed to defeat the extremists: military in the short term, security in the medium term and ideological in the long term.

His prognosis has been spot on and his vision will be crucial as governments intensify their efforts to contain and eventually destroy this evil menace.

Back home, those who stood on the sidelines or sympathised with the militants are now a small group.

The Muslim Brotherhood has condemned Kasasbeh’s killing and prominent members have come out to denounce IS and its actions. The atrocities carried out by this group have denied it support even among key Jihadist Salafist figures.

The national trauma has united Jordanians in a remarkable manner.

Jordanians realise that standing up to the militants will test their national unity and resolve. They are proud of their armed forces and security bodies, which have an excellent track record in defending the Kingdom against potential threats.

The role of these institutions will be crucial in the coming phase of this war. It is vital that they receive the necessary support from Jordan’s allies in the coalition.

Spearheading the fight against the militants will mark the country as a possible target for terrorists. The vigilance of Jordanians at all levels is an essential requirement.

But winning the war against the militants requires major initiatives.

Supporting the central government in Iraq and rebuilding the Iraqi army so that it can wage a land war against IS strongholds is key to changing the balance of power on the ground.

Urging countries like Turkey to control the flow of would-be terrorists across the border is necessary to deny the group men and ammunition.

And in Syria, the allies must move ahead with the training of moderate rebel groups so that they stand up to the militants.

The lack of a political solution in Syria has allowed this group to enhance its presence and extend its control of territories across the border into Iraq.

Furthermore, winning the ideological war will take time, but it is probably the most important component in the fight against Islamist extremism.

In this regard, Jordan can do a lot as a moderate Muslim country whose leader enjoys the respect and admiration of millions around the world.

King Abdullah’s call for an Arab-Muslim coalition to fight extremism must be acknowledged by leaders, clerics and academics. It is a battle that must be won in the classrooms and in mosques.

This leading role must be enhanced as Jordan moves to the forefront in the battle against the militants.

Jordan’s contribution to the regional and international campaign to fight terrorism in the name of religion goes beyond the current air raids on IS targets.

Moderation and wise leadership set Jordan apart from many countries in the region.

The decision to go to war against the militants has not distracted attention from the main objectives of the country, which rest on nation building, political and economic reforms and addressing socio-economic challenges.

The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

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