The Pentagon is sending nearly 200 troops from the 1st Armored Division to establish a “small headquarters” near Jordan’s border with Syria and plan potential military operations, “including a rapid buildup of American forces if the White House decides intervention is necessary,” The Los Angeles Times reports on Thursday, citing ‘senior US officials.’
The move marks the first deployment that American military officials have “explicitly described as a possible step toward direct military involvement in Syria,” the daily adds.
The first contingent of US forces is “likely to arrive in Jordan this month,” the report says citing military officials, but “most will go in May” and will be based at a Jordanian military installation.
The Pentagon, the report adds, “has also made plans to expand the force to 20,000 or more if necessary, including bringing in special operations teams to find and secure Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles, US air defense units to guard Jordan’s airspace, and conventional military units capable of moving into Syria if necessary.”
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed the military deployment Wednesday in a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but “also made clear” that he and US President Barack Obama “remained deeply wary of intervening in Syria just as US forces are trying to withdraw from 12 years of war in Afghanistan,” according to the report.
This is while the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey warned at the same Senate committee hearing that sending American troops to Syria could have ‘unanticipated consequences.’
“As I sit here today, Senator, I do not see the introduction of military force would produce the outcome we seek,” Dempsey said. “I don’t think it should be left unaddressed, let me be clear about that. But the introduction of military power right now certainly has the possibility of making the situation worse.”
This while Dempsey supported a US military intervention in Syria in Fall of 2012, along with then CIA Director David Petraeus, previous Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
According to the report, Hagel is scheduled to visit the Middle East next week, which will include stops in major backers of the anti-Damascus military bids Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Egypt. The entire trip is expected to focus on Syria.