The U.S. sent military advisers to Jordan and offered assistance to Turkey to help prepare for humanitarian and possible military spillover from the war in neighboring Syria, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.
The U.S. is helping Jordan to build a headquarters that can be used to manage the effects of the Syrian crisis, Panetta said after defense ministers concluded a two-day meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels. Syrian chemical and biological weapons continue to concern the U.S. and are being monitored from Jordan, he said.
“We have been working with Jordan for a period of time,” said Panetta, without elaborating or giving precise figures for the number of personnel deployed. U.S. advisers are helping Jordanians “to try to develop their own military and operational capabilities in the event of any contingency,” he said.
The U.S. acknowledgment that it sent military personnel to Jordan comes amid intensified fighting in Syria that threatens to drag neighbors into the conflict. NATO yesterday praised Turkish restraint in responding to Syrian mortar fire, after five people were killed when a shell from across the border landed in a Turkish town. The alliance pledged to support Turkey if it’s attacked.
About 150 U.S. military planners were dispatched to an old rock quarry north of Amman, the New York Times reported today, citing unidentified officers familiar with the operation. The team is focusing on helping Jordan accommodate the 180,000 Syrian refugees that have fled across the kingdom’s northern border, the report said.
Jordan, a traditional U.S. ally, last month issued calls for international help to handle the flow of Syrian refugees. Syrian and Jordanian guards have clashed at their border.
Turkey’s top general today warned of a tougher response if Syrian shells continue to land on Turkish soil following six days of retaliatory barrages by his forces against President Bashar al-Assad’s army.
“If it continues, we will make a stronger response,” the NTV television website quoted General Necdet Ozel as saying about the shelling. “We retaliated immediately, we also inflicted losses.”