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Jordanians experience a peaceful U.S. - although we are at war

September 5, 2013 Updated: September 5, 2013 at 6:15 pm

DENVER - For half a dozen representatives of Jordan's military, a visit to Colorado this week presented a strange reality.

They live in a nation at peace, but where it feels like wartime as America edges closer to launching strikes into neighboring Syria, which is in the throes of civil war. And, Palestinian unrest continues to boil in the region. They've come to a nation that has been at war for a dozen years, and where more fighting is being debated in the halls of Congress.

Yet it feels like peace.

With Syria's recent use of chemical weapons, concern hit a crescendo in Amman, Jordan's capital city, said Jordanian Armed Forces Lt. Rasha Al Qaisi.

"They're all scared," she said. "I'm scared, too."

The Jordanian troops were at Colorado's capitol Thursday as part of a long-term partnership with the state's National Guard.

Jordan, which borders, Syria, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, is a key American ally in the region.

"Jordan is a very strategic partner," explained Capt. Darin Overstreet, a Colorado National Guard spokesman who was playing tour guide for the Jordanian delegation on Thursday.

The Jordanian troops, including Al Qaisi, came to Colorado to learn how to help their military communicate better with the public.

Since reforms were enacted in 2011, Jordan has begun to embrace freedom of speech and a free press.

That means the government has to talk to the people.

The quality is critical now that Jordan is surrounded by threats, especially along its border with Syria where the military is working to make sure the war doesn't spill over.

The government of Jordan, through King Abdullah, has spent months trying to alert the West to the growing dangers in Syria, including the existence of chemical weapons stockpiles.

Jordan faces internal concerns, too.

A peaceful place in a region of strife, it is home to an ever-growing population of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Egypt.

As the population increases, its economy continues to stumble. Jordan has no oil or mineral wealth and a meager industrial base. It's estimated that up to a quarter of Jordan's workforce is unemployed.

"We're a poor country," Al Qaisi said.

And the threat of chemical weapons next door is only driving fear, even in a nation accustomed to regional turmoil.

If the U.S. launches an extended campaign in Syria, Jordan would play a key role. So would Colorado.

The Colorado National Guard has worked to become expert on the country, with exchanges of fighter pilots and special forces troops in recent years in addition to regular contact between top-level leaders.

"It helps us to gain an understating of the Arab culture," said Overstreet, who has traveled to Jordan several times as part of the program.

The Jordanian delegation, meanwhile, will spend another few days in America, enjoying peace in a nation at war.

"It's amazing," Al Qaisi said of Colorado. "People are so nice."

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