AMMAN (AFP) – U.S. army chief General Martin Dempsey, in Jordan on a visit, has discussed ways to help the Jordanian military tackle fallout from the Syrian conflict, a government official said Thursday.
“Dempsey and Jordanian officials discussed [in Amman] means to help the armed forces deal with the Syrian crisis, which is already burdening the kingdom,” the Jordanian official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Jordan and the Unites States are close allies and the discussions came as part of continued cooperation between the two countries,” he said.
A Pentagon statement quoted Dempsey as saying that the types of possible U.S. support that were discussed include border surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance assistance and training Jordanian special operations forces.
“Here in Jordan, they’re particularly interested in what we can do to help them see and secure their very long border with Syria,” he said.
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Dempsey held talks on Wednesday with his Jordanian counterpart Lieutenant General Mashal al-Zaben as well as with King Abdullah II as part of a regional tour.
He warned against the possible consequences of prolonged fighting in Syria, including “everything from terrorism to chemical weapons.”
Jordan in particular, Dempsey added in the statement, is concerned about “the possibility this movement in Syria will be hijacked by extremists groups like Al-Nusra [Front] and Ahrar al-Sham.”
Direct military action in Syria was not discussed, he added.
“That actually never came up,” he said in the statement. “What did come up… was what we could do to help [the opposition] build their capability and capacity.”
The statement said Dempsey also discussed the challenges Jordan faces in hosting more than 500,000 Syrian refugees, mostly women and children.
His office has said he planned to visit U.S. troops in Jordan and draw up a clearer picture of how the conflict in neighboring Syria is affecting the kingdom and the region.
Fearing the Syrian conflict could spill over into Jordan, the United States has deployed F-16 fighters and Patriot missile defences, along with about 1,000 U.S. troops, to protect its close Arab ally, a major beneficiary of U.S. aid.