The United States has sent military troops to the Jordan-Syria border to bolster that country's military capabilities in the event that violence escalates along its border with Syria, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday.
Speaking at a NATO conference of defense 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. The troops are also building a headquarters for themselves.
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.
The development comes with the US presidential election less than a month away, and at a time when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has been criticizing Pres. Obama's foreign policy, accusing the administration of embracing too passive a stance in the convulsive Mideast region.
The defense secretary and other administration officials have expressed concern about Syrian Pres. Bashar Assad's arsenal of chemical weapons. Panetta said last week that the United States believes that while the weapons are still secure, intelligence suggests the regime might have moved the weapons to protect them. The Obama administration has said that Assad's use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that would change the US policy of providing only non-lethal aid to the rebels seeking to topple him.
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"...
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...
A US defense official in Washington said the forces are made up of 100 military planners and other personnel who stayed on in Jordan after attending an annual exercise in May, and several dozen more have flown in since, operating from a joint US-Jordanian military center north of Amman that Americans have used for years.
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Editor's Note: The so-called "Arab Spring" is a no win situation for the West. With status quo, politically opportune duplicitous leaders being toppled by jihadist elements bringing with them a fundamental hatred for the total of Western culture, the end game is a losing end for the West. The question begs to be asked, also, just who are we arming in giving weaponry to the "rebels"? In Egypt we backed what ended up to be the Muslim Brotherhood.
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