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US Officials Leave 700 Troops in Jordan, Patriot Missiles and Fighter Jets – Escalation of Syrian War
by Ezra Van Auken
America’s role in the two-year Syrian war has been broader than many officials make it seem. From giving Israeli fighter jets the “green light” to conduct air strikes on Assad’s equipment convoys to working with Gulf countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia funneling arms into Syria for the opposition. To say US officials and the intelligence community haven’t done anything is quite inaccurate at this point. Now, officials have announced more plans to maintain a presence around Syria.
On Friday, McClatchy reported that the Obama administration declared that around 700 US troops would remain based inside Jordan, which is south of Syria. The US President said these actions were being taken to bring extra security to the region as Syria’s war turns up. “The detachment will remain in Jordan, in full coordination with the government of Jordan, until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed,” Obama noted. There were no specifics on what troops would be securing.
The war in Syria has produced spillover in Jordan but hasn’t brought violence, yet. President Obama wrote that providing security in Jordan would benefit US national security interests and regional stability. Decisions by the administration follow a Jordan-US collaborated military training exercise that ended last Thursday – leading many to believe the exercise was a mere pretext to leaving a deployment in Jordan. Before the exercise, US and British intelligence officers were already supporting rebels in the region.
As SLN reported in March, “Adding on to the understanding that CIA officials are transferring weapons with the help of foreign governments, the Associated Press published Tuesday that U.S. forces were based in Jordan training secular rebels for Syria’s battle.”
US boots aren’t the only things being left inside Jordan. The administration will also allow two Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries and logistics and 12 to 24 US F-16 fighter jets to remain grounded for any regional support. Of course, these deployment announcements are coming just a week after the President Obama publicly declared US support, consisting of lethal aid, for rebels. For Jordan, the escalating US presence went from about 700 soldiers to 1,000 as well as military equipment.
After the announcement of US troops and equipment staying in Jordan, the LA Times reported that the Jordanian government has witnessed the increasing level of US boots for a while now. The Times noted, “White House officials refused to comment Friday on a Los Angeles Times report that CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons since late last year,” making revealing claims that US officials have been deeply involved.
The US reportedly worked inside Jordan for over a year, providing military training assistance and other support for secularist rebels. According to the LA Times, some factions included the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which don’t have the best image. “The number of rebels given U.S. instruction in both countries since the program began could not be determined, but in Jordan, the training involves 20 to 45 insurgents at a time, a rebel commander said.” Both Jordan and Turkey have overseen US training programs.
Whether or not the expansion of American presence around Syria means an eventual military offensive is unknown. It was understood that Secretary of State John Kerry told officials behind closed doors that he felt it was necessary to conduct air strikes on Syria. Bloomberg reported in mid-June, “At a principals meeting in the White House situation room, Secretary of State John Kerry began arguing, vociferously, for immediate U.S. airstrikes against airfields under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime,” going on to say that General Martin Dempsey slammed Kerry for the idea.
MAYA ALLERUZZO/AP Photo