The 150 troops are intended in the first instance to help Jordan, a key but fragile US ally, deal with the influx of refugees from the fighting across the northern border. They are also preparing for any action that might be needed to secure Syria’s chemical weapons in the event of the Assad regime losing control of them.
But officials also told The New York Times that the possibility of a buffer zone in southern Syria, enforced by Jordanian troops with American logistical support, had also been discussed. Jordan as well as its neighbours is deeply concerned at the threat of the Syrian war spilling over its borders.
The American troops have been stationed at a Jordanian military base north of Amman about 35 miles from the border since the end of a major joint exercise called Operation Eager Lion. There have been reports before that troops pulled out of Iraq stayed in neighbouring Jordan as a buffer force, but this is the first confirmation of a deployment directly attributed to the Arab Spring.
In Libya, western nations including the United States supplied air power to help the rebels, but “boots on the ground” were limited to a small number of British and French special forces offering training and support.
The US, like Britain and other Nato countries, has refused to send military support to the Syrian rebels despite their calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, though the CIA are believed to be in southern Turkey helping to assess rebel recipients of military supplies sent by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
day appointed a new prime minister, Abdullah Ensour, to implement constitutional reforms he has put forward in response to the protests and to prepare the way for parliamentary elections next year.
At least 200,000 refugees from Syria have crossed into Jordan, with more than 30,000 at the giant Zaatari refugee camp. Residents there have staged protests and even riots over conditions.
Jordan fears that militants now known to be aiding the Syrian rebels, to whom Jordan has offered moral support, might use the cover of the conflict and its refugees to cross over the border themselves.