US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has confirmed that US troops have been dispatched to the Jordan-Syrian border to help bolster the former’s military capabilities in case violence escalates in the volatile region.
“We have been working with Jordan for a period of time now…on a number of issues that have developed as a result of what’s happening in Syria,” Panetta said. He said chief among those issues were the “humanitarian needs” that has developed as a result of the refugee influx into Jordan.
“We have also been working with them in the effort to monitor the CBW (Chemical-Biological Weapons) sites to determine how best to respond to any concerns in that area,” Panetta continued.
“And we’ve also been working with them to help them develop their own military and operational capabilities in the event of any contingency there, and that’s the reason we have a group of our forces there. They’re working to help them build a headquarters there and to ensure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one so that we can deal with all of the possible consequences of what is happening in Syria,” he added.
Panetta’s comments came during a NATO conference of defense ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, where he said the US had been working with Jordan to monitor chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria and help the country deal with Syrian refugees crossing over the border.
Earlier in the day Jordan’s military had denied the US military was helping the kingdom deal with the influx of Syrian refugees and other security related issues.
“News reports that the United States is helping Jordan deal with the Syrian refugees or face dangers related to chemical weapons are not true,” state-run Petra news agency cited a Jordan Armed Forces spokesperson as saying.
The US has previously used Jordan as a base for other Syria-related military activities. In May of this year, Washington held military drills in Jordan dubbed ‘Operation Eager Lion,’ which saw around 12,000 troops from several nations participate in undisclosed training exercises.