The United States intends to send hundreds of troops to Jordan amid the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Officials said the U.S. military has approved plans to deploy at least 200 soldiers in Jordan in 2013. They said the U.S. soldiers would help Jordan secure its northern border with Syria as well as to monitor the war against President Bashar Assad.
“The deployment of the troops is part of U.S.-Jordanian military cooperation to boost the Jordanian armed forces in light of the deteriorating situation in Syria,” Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed Momani said.
In remarks on April 17, Momani did not say when the U.S. soldiers would arrive in the Hashemite kingdom. He said the U.S. military deployment reflected what he termed the “deteriorating situation” in Syria.
Later, U.S. officials confirmed the report from Jordan and said the deployment was meant to prepare the kingdom for war with Syria. CNN television said the decision was issued by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on April 15, and that the army personnel would include specialists in communications and intelligence. On April 17, Hagel informed Congress of the decision.
“It is a well-trained, well-coordinated team that can be the nucleus of further mission planning and growth of the command and control element, should that be ordered,” an official was quoted by the U.S. daily Wall Street Journal on April 18.
Over the last month, Syria, including Assad, has threatened Jordan for its support of the rebels. In an interview on Syrian television on April 17, Assad warned that the war in Syria could spread to neighboring countries.
“The fire does not stop at our borders and everyone knows that Jordan is exposed to it as is Syria,” Assad said.
Officials said the U.S. troops would come from the army’s 1st Armored Division based at Fort Bliss, Texas. They said the U.S. military was prepared to protect rebel-held buffer zones near the border with Jordan and Turkey.
“Military intervention at this point could hinder humanitarian relief operations,” Hagel, who begins a Middle East tour on April 20, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It could embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy and uncertain commitment.”