x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pentagon sends US advisers to Jordan

The US military is helping Jordanians to develop their own military and operational capabilities in the event of any contingency stemming from the Syrian crisis, according to the US secretary of defence.

JERUSALEM // The United States has dispatched more than 150 military trainers and communications and logistics experts to Jordan amid the growing Syrian refugee crisis and fears over the security of Bashar Al Assad's chemical weapons, US media reports say.

The New York Times reported yesterday that the advisers have been stationed at a Jordanian military base about 55 kilometres south of the Syrian border since the summer.

The US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, yesterday confirmed that the team had been deployed.

"We have been working with Jordan for a period of time," said Mr Panetta in Brussels.

US advisers are helping Jordanians "to try to develop their own military and operational capabilities in the event of any contingency".

"We have a group of our forces there working to help 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 the possible consequences of what's happening in Syria," said Mr Panetta.

George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, also expressed concern about the Syrian government's chemical weapons stockpiles.

"As we've said before, we have been planning for various contingencies, both unilaterally and with our regional partners," Mr Little said in a 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."

Jordan hosts about 100,000 refugees from Syria, according to the United Nations, and Jordanian and US officials have also discussed establishing a buffer zone controlled by Jordanian forces inside Syria and supported politically by the US, TheTimes added.

But yesterday Jordan's military denied that it needed assistance from the US, saying the Americans were in the country for "routine military exercises".

"News reports that the United States is helping Jordan deal with the Syrian refugees or face dangers related to chemical weapons are not true," a Jordanian armed forces spokesman said in a statement published by Petra, the state-run news agency. "The Jordanian forces are capable of facing any kind of threats."

hnaylor@thenational.ae