Armed Forces General Command
Composed of both regular or career personnel and conscripts, the armed forces in 1988 had an active-duty strength estimated at 85,300 officers and enlisted personnel. Included in this total were an army of 74,000, an air force of 11,000, and a naval element of 300. The naval force, with a coast guard-type mission, was organizationally part of the army. The air force, which enjoyed high prestige arising in part from Hussein's avid personal interest in aviation, had semi-autonomous status.
Article 32 of the Constitution states that "the king is the Supreme Commander of the Army, Naval, and Air Forces." The words here have a connotation similar to commander in chief as applied to the president of the United States. King Hussein has, however, generally exercised close control over the armed forces and has even assumed direct command of the army on many occasions. The king has the constitutional right to declare war, conclude peace, and sign treaties. The declaration of a state of emergency may be made by decision of the Council of Ministers and is promulgated by royal decree when required to "ensure the defense of the realm." In such situations, the country's ordinary laws are suspended. As of mid-1989, Jordan had been formally in a state of martial law since 1967, enabling the king to legislate by the issuance of decrees.
Broad policy issues relating to security were decided by the king, advised by a small circle of officials and personal associates. These included his brother, Crown Prince Hasan, senior palace officials, and the prime minister. The post of minister of defense customarily had been held by the prime minister. The Ministry of Defense had mainly administrative functions, including logistics, mobilization, conscription, and preparation of the defense budget. The operational commander of the armed forces was theoretically responsible to the minister of defense, but in reality the minister did not issue directives of an operational nature unless they had the king's approval.
The commanding officer of the armed forces had invariably been a confidant of the king and was generally a leading member of a prominent bedouin clan. Until he was appointed a ranking palace official--chief of the royal court--in late 1988, Field Marshal General of the Army Ash Sharif Zaid ibn Shakir, a cousin of the king, had been commander in chief for more than twelve years. Zaid ibn Shakir's family had always been close to the royal family, and Zaid ibn Shakir himself had been personally linked with Hussein throughout his military career. In addition to his high palace position, he also filled a newly created post of adviser to the king on national security. The new position implied that Shakir would retain considerable influence over military policies.
Operational command of the armed forces was assumed by the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Fathi Abu Talib, after the departure of Zaid ibn Shakir. It was expected that the title of commander in chief of the armed forces, would be eliminated. Accordingly, the senior military commander under the king would henceforward bear the title of chief of staff of the armed forces.
The chief of staff presided over a headquarters in Amman known as the Armed Forces General Command. Subordinate to him were the air force commander and chiefs of staff for personnel, intelligence, operations, and administration, corresponding roughly to the G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 functional sections of the general staff under the United States system. These positions were normally held by officers of major general rank. By legislation enacted in 1983, Jordan was divided into eight military regions corresponding to the eight governorates, although it was not clear how these regions fitted into the overall military command structure.
The commander of the semi-autonomous Royal Jordanian Air Force-- subordinated to the chief of staff--derived some logistical support from the army and carried out a degree of policy coordination with the principal officers of the Armed Forces General Command staff. The air force, however, had a separate headquarters at King Abdullah Air Base near Amman. The headquarters had its own staff for the specialized operations, training, logistic, and other requirements of the air force.
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