The United States has secretly set up a special military force in Jordan to help the country cope with an influx of refugees from Syria, prepare in case Syria loses control of its chemical weapons and be ready for the possibility that the conflict there could spill over Syria’s borders, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The report, quoting unnamed US “officials familiar with the operation,” described the unit as a task force comprising more than 150 planners and other specialists based at a Jordanian military training center north of Amman and led by a senior American officer.
It said the force was focused on helping Jordan handle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who have crossed the border and added that the prospect of creating a “buffer zone” to insulate Jordan, a key US ally in the volatile region, from the unrest in Syria had been discussed.
The buffer zone would be enforced by Jordanian forces on the Syrian side of the border and could be “supported politically and perhaps logistically by the United States,” The New York Times report stated, adding that this was only a contingency plan at present.
The Pentagon had no immediate comment on the report.
The paper said the US mission in Jordan began quietly during the summer following a major training exercise involving around 12,000 troops from 19 countries, including Special Forces personnel. After the drill ended, some of the US troops remained and the task force was set up.
The force includes communications specialists, logistics experts, planners, trainers and headquarters staff members, according to the report.
According to the United Nations, there are around 100,000 Syrians in Jordan who have already registered as refugees or who are waiting to register. The New York Times quoted unnamed American officials as saying the total number may be twice that amount.