The United States is preparing for a possible military intervention in the civil war in Syria by sending American military personnel to neighboring Jordan, the Los Angeles Times reported. The small contingent of about 200 troops that will arrive in Jordan over the next few weeks to assist in humanitarian aid to refugees could be expanded to 20,000 or more in a rapid buildup of American forces if President Obama decides military intervention is necessary, according to unnamed "senior U.S. officials," cited by the Times.
"Military intervention is always an option, but it should be an option of last resort," Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in disclosing the deployment Wednesday in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. A major deployment of U.S. forces could "embroil the U.S. in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment," he said. But citing the "humanitarian devastation" from the two-year-old civil war, Hagel said the Obama administration is looking for alternatives to seeking a negotiated settlement, while providing assistance to rebel factions that could be capable of taking control of the country after Bashar Assad's overthrow or exile.
"It hasn't achieved the objective, obviously," Hagel said of efforts thus far. "That's why we continue to look for other options and other ways to do this."
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is already in Jordan, running a covert program to train Syrian rebels, the New York Times reported last week. The agency has expanded its role in recent weeks, sending officers to Turkey to assist in the effort to get arms to the "moderate" forces in the Syrian opposition.
The first of the 200 troops are likely to arrive in Jordan this month, with the rest to arrive in May. Many of them will be civil affairs officers, trained in humanitarian assistance. They will be based at a Jordanian military installation, an official said. Plans for a possible expansion of the force to 20,000 or more include the deployment of special operations teams to find and secure Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles, U.S. air defense units to guard Jordan's airspace, and conventional military units capable of moving into Syria.
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