After days of issuing 'no comment', the Obama administration admitted yesterday that the United States has indeed sent troops to the Jordan-Syria border. Speaking at a NATO conference of defense ministers in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: "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."
Pentagon press secretary George Little, traveling with Panetta, said the U.S. and Jordan agreed that "increased cooperation and more detailed planning are necessary in order to respond to the severe consequences of the Assad regime's brutality."
Although neither Panetta nor Little came clean about the purpose behind the whole deployment, a U.S. defense official in Washington told AP that the forces are made up of 100 military planners and other personnel who stayed on in Jordan after attending an annual exercise in May, and several dozen more who have flown in since, operating from a joint U.S.-Jordanian military center north of Amman that Americans have used for years. Reports indicate that about 200,000 Syrians have moved over to Jordan to avoid the brutal war raging in Syria for more than a year; what has been left unsaid, is that many Jordanian men are moving in the other direction across the border, joining what intelligence officials have estimated to be around 2,000 foreigners fighting alongside Syrian rebels trying to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus. It is anyone's guess at this point whether these Jordanians were trained and armed by the U.S. troops.
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. The Obama administration denied accusations in the Syrian media that the exercises were a threat against President Assad, and maintained that the action focused on the treatment of refugees, anti-terrorism tactics, and naval interception of smuggling vessels.