US, Jordan Form Command Center to Watch Syria

In this Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 photo, smoke rises from residential buildings due heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria.

The U.S. Military is partnering with Jordanian officials to establish a specialized Command and Control Headquarters in Jordan as a way to monitor the ongoing violence in nearby Syria, senior military officials said.

The headquarters will maintain a high-measure of vigilance to watch the behavior of the Syrian regime, placing a particular eye upon their potential use of chemical weapons, Army and Pentagon officials explained.

"This provides the president with options and allows him to choose. The situation in Syria is still not quite predictable enough – we’re watching," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee at an April 23 budget hearing.  

"We’re working closely with the Jordanians," he said.

Part of the forces slated to participate in the effort are elements of the Army’s 1st Armored Division, according to Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry.

In fact, the Jordanian Armed Forces and U.S. Military regularly invite personnel to each other's nations, she added.

"This is a testament to our strong bilateral ties.  The objectives and duration of each exchange, whether it is a key leader engagement, professional military education, bilateral exercise or planning, are mutual in nature," said Kageleiry. "They are not a combat force."

The Army forces will participate in the command and control portions of Eager Lion,  a recurring, multi-national exercise designed to  strengthen military-to-military relationships through a joint, whole-of-government, multinational approach to future complex national security challenges, said Kagliery. 

These events are taking place within a broader context of continued violence in the war-torn region; Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently told lawmakers that the Pentagon will send 200 soldiers to Jordan as part of an effort to prevent spillover violence and assist with a potential refugee situation along the Syrian-Jordanian border areas.

In addition, the Los Angeles Times recently cited senior U.S. officials indicating that as many as 20,000 more U.S. troops could be headed to Syria if the Obama administration decides to intervene.

A defense analyst analyst said having this kind of military presence nearby in the region is a smart strategic and tactical move.

"This makes perfect sense given the volatility of the situation and the need to be postured just in case. The longer this thing goes, the more difficult it is to use a no-fly zone to get a good outcome.  Even if there is a need to secure chemical weapons stock, you will need some forward headquarters or basing to get the people and stuff associated with the weapons programs," said Thomas Donnelly, resident fellow and co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies.

"Also, this may give us a look into Iraq which we might not have otherwise," he added.

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Syria Persian Gulf