383. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, November 19, 19581

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Military Survey Mission

PARTICIPANTS

  • Brig. General Richard A. Risden, United States Army
  • Col. Stanley Harding
  • NEA—Mr. William M. Rountree
  • NE—Mr. Stuart W. Rockwell
  • NE—Mr. Richard B. Parker

General Risden, who had just returned from Jordan, gave a brief summary of his survey of the Jordan military forces. He and his team had approached the problem of what could be done to strengthen the Jordan forces in two ways: (1) what Jordan could do and (2) what we could do. They had made a complete survey of all units of the Jordan military services. They had given to King Hussein 25 pages of recommendations for action2 which could be completed within the resources of the Jordanians. The King had seemed pleased with these recommendations and had issued immediate instructions to his staff to implement them.

The Jordan Army was not bad, but had been on police duty for almost two years. General Risden felt we should investigate the possibility of strengthening the police forces and returning the army to military duty. Although the Jordanians undoubtedly had the capability of maintaining internal security with the army, this function should be given to the police as much as possible. The army needed training and he had suggested a plan for rotation of units through a training cycle at Zerqa. The police forces needed mobility, weapons and training.

Mr. Rountree asked if the program of strengthening the police would be expensive. General Risden said he believed not. It would require training in the US, some jeeps, and an increase of about 1, 000 men.

Mr. Rountree asked if the Jordanians had pressed the question of two additional brigades? General Risden said they had not. They did not have depth in trained officers to staff an expanded army and should concentrate on improving the units they had on hand. The Deputy Chief of Staff, General Shara’, seemed to be well aware of this. However, the army did need some additional equipment. Perhaps this should include anti-aircraft equipment (40mm cannons and cal., 50 [Page 665]machine guns), communications equipment and vehicles. It was perhaps advisable that equipment supplied should come primarily from the UK in order to avoid yearly requests for spare parts from us. The army also needed training of staff officers. However, there was a shortage of officers who were capable of benefiting from training in the U.S.

General Risden said that the organization of the Jordan army was basically sound and he saw no requirement for change. He listed the strength of the army as follows:

Regular Army—35, 000

National Guard—29, 000

Border Guard—15, 000

Reserves—10, 000

Inactive National Guards—20, 000

This was a sizeable establishment for Jordan. The primary requirement was for improving these existing forces. The Jordanians needed a staff school and their military academy was in terrible shape because of the varying levels of education and experience of the students. He had recommended the establishment of a prep school in order to provide a body of relatively uniformly educated candidates.

Mr. Rountree asked if General Risden had been able to talk to the British about these matters. General Risden said that he had talked to them a little but most of the British officers had been extremely busy with preparations for withdrawal and he had had little chance to consult with them. He had found that the British held a rather low opinion of the capabilities of Jordanian military personnel. He did not share this opinion and had been very favorably impressed by the officers and men with whom he had come in contact. The Chief of Staff, General Majali, was not the real brains of the army. The most effective officer was General Shara’, the Deputy Chief of Staff, who was an excellent man. He probably was willing to serve whoever was in power and therefore could be classified an opportunist. This was not necessarily a bad thing.

Mr. Rountree asked if the Jordan army could maintain the modern equipment which we might supply to them. General Risden replied that they had very high maintenance standards and that he had been very favorably impressed by their work shops and by their ability to continue operating vehicles which we would have discarded long ago. He thought their ability to maintain new equipment was comparable to that of West European armies.

Mr. Rountree said that we had three considerations which we thought should be borne in mind:

(1)
We wished to avoid adding further burdens to the Jordan economy;
(2)
We hoped to be able to satisfy the requirements of the Jordan Government; and
(3)
We would wish to consult with the British, who had been extremely interested in this matter, before taking any definitive action. General Risden said that he understood these considerations and had kept them in mind. He hoped his report would be completed by November 24 and that we would have a copy soon after that date. He was planning to return to his division on November 25 but would be available to come to Washington for consultation with us at any time.

General Risden spoke very highly of the work which Mr. Bennsky had done in Jordan. Mr. Rountree expressed his thanks to General Risden for undertaking to lead the survey mission and said that we had considered this mission particularly important in terms of US policy in the area.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 785.5–MSP/11–1958. Secret. Drafted by Parker.
  2. Not found.