The 1,500 U.S. troops in Jordan have increasingly become a major factor in White House efforts to contain the regional spillover from Syria's civil war.
Earlier this week, officials in Amman said that Jordan was prepared to offer its facilities to host a U.S. training program for Iraqi troops to help counter a resurgence by Al Qaeda-linked militants who now hold sway in the Western Iraqi town of Fallujah and in parts of Ramadi.
"Jordan welcomes positively the U.S. request to train Iraqi forces on its territory," Jordan Information Minister Mohammed Momani said in a statement to the government newspaper Al-Rai.
"This project is part of permanent cooperation between Jordan, Iraq and the United States to fight against terrorism in the region," Momani said. "We have one of the best security and military training facilities in the region."
Pentagon officials declined comment on the training arrangement, or when it would begin, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met Tuesday at the Pentagon with a top Iraqi official on enhancing efforts to aid the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in combating Sunni insurgents in the western Anbar province.
At the meeting with Osama al-Nujaifi, speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Hagel agreed to "accelerate delivery of critical defense equipment to resupply the Iraqi Security Forces conducting missions in Anbar province," according to a statement by Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
Hagel also "lauded the government of Iraq's continued outreach to local Sunni tribal leaders and officials to evict terrorist fighters from Fallujah and other parts of western Iraq," Kirby said.
In an interview last week with the Washington Post, Maliki said his troops badly needed U.S. training on counter-terrorist tactics. Maliki said he was open to having U.S. troops come to Iraq to do the training "or Iraqi soldiers could go to Jordan and train."
The U.S. has been backing the Baghdad government with small arms and munitions while holding off on Maliki's requests for Apache attack helicopters and F16 fighters in the struggle to turn back insurgents from the group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is active in Syria and Iraq.
Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry have also stressed that U.S. support of Iraq would not include "boots on the ground."
The U.S. troops in Jordan, backed by Patriot missiles and F-16 fighters, come from units that participated in a major regional training exercise last June in Jordan. About 1,500 remained behind to bolster Jordan's King Abdullah II, who had backed Syrian rebels in their attempt to oust the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In a December message to the leaders of the House and Senate, President Obama said the U.S. troops in Jordan would remain there indefinitely.
"These forces will remain in Jordan, in full coordination with the government of Jordan, until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed," Obama said in the message.
|Jordan Military Aid Iraq Richard Sisk|