Meanwhile, speaking in Brussels, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the US has sent military troops to the Jordan-Syria border to help build a headquarters in Jordan and bolster that country’s capabilities in the event that violence escalates along its border with Syria
The New York Times said the force of planners and specialists - led by a senior US officer would help Jordan handle an influx of refugees and prepare for scenarios including loose chemical weapons, according to Times.
TheNation Monitoring adds: The United States has sent military troops to the Jordan-Syria border to help build a headquarters in Jordan and bolster that country’s military capabilities in the event that violence escalates along its border with Syria, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday, reported Fox News, quoting an American news agency.
Speaking at a NATO conference of defence ministers in Brussels, Panetta said the US has been working with Jordan to monitor chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria and also to help Jordan deal with refugees pouring over the border from Syria.
But the revelation of US military personnel so close to the 19-month-old Syrian conflict suggests an escalation in the US military involvement in the conflict, even as Washington pushes back on any suggestion of a direct intervention in Syria.
It also follows several days of shelling between Turkey and Syria, an indication that the civil war could spill across Syria’s borders and become a regional conflict.
“We have a group of our forces there working to help build a headquarters there and to insure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one so that we can deal with all the possible consequences of what’s happening in Syria,” Panetta said.
Pentagon press secretary George Little, traveling with Panetta, said the US and Jordan agreed that “increased cooperation and more detailed planning are necessary in order to respond to the severe consequences of the Assad regime’s brutality.”
He said the US has provided medical kits, water tanks, and other forms of humanitarian aid to help Jordanians assist Syrian refugees fleeing into their country.
Little said the military personnel were there to help Jordan with the flood of Syrian refugees over its borders and the security of Syria’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
“As we’ve said before, we have been planning for various contingencies, both unilaterally and with our regional partners,” Little said in a written statement. “There are various scenarios in which the Assad regime’s reprehensible actions could affect our partners in the region. For this reason and many others, we are always working on our contingency planning, for which we consult with our friends.”