US will deploy its troops in Jordan to help the country defend their border with Syria and to counter the threat of chemical weapons from the Assad regime, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has said.

“Since last year, a small team of US military experts has been working in Jordan on planning related to chemical weapons and preventing a spill-over of violence across Jordan’s borders. Last week, I ordered the deployment of a US Army headquarters element to enhance this effort in Amman,” Hagel told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing.

“These personnel will continue to work alongside the Jordanian Armed Forces to improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios,” he said.

Threat from Syria

Hagel said the US is also working closely with other Syrian neighbours, including Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, to help them counter the threat from Syria’s chemical weapons.

As part of this effort, the Pentagon is funding over $70 million for activities in Jordan, including providing training and equipment to detect and stop any chemical weapons transfer along its border with Syria and developing Jordanian capacity to identify and secure chemical weapons assets.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has made clear that if Assad and those under his command use chemical weapons, or fail to meet their obligations to secure them, there will be consequences, and they will be held accountable.

“The Department of Defence has plans in place to respond to the full range of chemical weapons scenarios,” he said.

Military planning

Hagel added that the US military is constantly updating and adjusting tactical military planning to account for the rapidly shifting situation on the ground and to prepare for additional new contingencies, not only those associated with the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons, but also the potential spill-over of violence across Syria’s borders that could threaten allies and partners.

Noting that the US is developing a post-Assad plan, Hagel said the reality is that this is a complex and difficult situation.

(This article was published on April 18, 2013)
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