World Bulletin / News Desk
A team of U.S. military planners is in Jordan to help the Amman government grapple with Syrian refugees, bolster its military capabilities and prepare for any trouble with Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday.
The team, led by special operations forces and comprising about 150 troops, mainly from the U.S. Army, is constructing a headquarters building in Amman from which to work with Jordanian forces on joint operational planning and intelligence sharing, a senior defense official said.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the team had been in Jordan for several months and was there when Panetta visited King Abdullah in early August. The number of troops in the team has since grown, but there are no specific plans to expand it further, the official said.
"We have been working with Jordan for a period of time now ... on a number of the issues that have developed as a result of what's happened in Syria," Panetta told a news conference in Brussels.
Panetta said those issues included monitoring chemical weapons sites "to determine how best to respond to any concerns in that area."
A second U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the small team of planners was not engaged in covert operations and had been housed at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center, north of the capital, Amman, since the early summer.
While the United States has not intervened militarily in Syria, President Barack Obama has warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any attempt to deploy or use chemical or biological weapons would cross a "red line" that could provoke U.S. action.
Late last month, Panetta said Syria had moved some of its chemical weapons stocks to better secure them, but stressed that the country's main chemical weapons sites remained intact and secure under government control.
NOT ONLY CHEMICAL WEAPONS
The U.S. military planners in Jordan are not focused solely on chemical weapons.
"We've also been working with them to develop their own military operational capabilities in the event of any contingency there," Panetta said.
"And that's the reason we have ... a group of our forces there," he added.
About 294,000 refugees fleeing 18 months of conflict in Syria have already crossed into Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, or await registration there, the U.N. refugee agency estimated late last month. Up to 700,000 Syrian refugees may flee abroad by the end of the year, it estimated.
Defense Minister Fikri Isik and his US, French counterparts discuss Mosul offensive and planned operations in northern Syria
Secretary General calls Russia's continued support for Assad regime "deeply troubling"
A helicopter “assessed to belong to regime forces” bombed the opposition fighters in a village near Akhtarin, five kilometres southeast of Dabiq, the Turkish military said in a statement. Dabiq is a former ISIL stronghold which opposition groups seized this month.
The Russian strikes targeted school, marketplace south of Idlib
The soldier was injured near Metula town in northern Israel
Bloc will step up efforts to help and train Iraqi forces, Secretary General says
The coalition, which began its bombing campaign against rebels in Yemen in March 2015 in support of the internationally recognised government, accuses Iran of arming the Huthi insurgents and their allies.
Syrians can be seen waiting in line at Turkey’s Karkamis border crossing to go to the liberated northern Syrian city
72 ISIL and 15 PKK/PYD targets were hit as part of Operation Euphrates Shield
The once ghost city is now teeming with life, residents says.
'Our opponents need to ensure the adequate behavior of anti-government troops,' Deputy FM Sergey Ryabkov says
Lebanon has been without a president for more than two years now
No information was yet available about casualties