A detachment of F-16s and U.S. Patriot missiles dispatched to Jordan for the joint Eager Lion military exercise will remain in the country after the exercise ends, the Pentagon has announced.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel approved Jordan's request to keep the military assets in country after the exercise, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement issued Saturday.
About 5,000 U.S. personnel have been participating in the 12-day Jordanian-led exercise aimed at strengthening ties between the U.S. and Jordan, as the civil war continues in neighboring Syria.
The U.S. announced Thursday that it would begin providing military support to opposition groups in Syria, after intelligence had determined with “high certainty” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons — killing 100 to 150 people. While the administration has ruled out deploying troops to Syria, a no-fly zone is an option, but no decision has been taken yet and officials have cautioned that it would be far more complex than the NATO-led operation in Libya in 2011.
While officials emphasized before and during the Eager Lion exercise that it was aimed at strengthening ties between the U.S. and Jordan, the proximity of the civil war next door in Syria spurred rumors and speculation about whether some troops might be asked to stay behind after the exercise ends.
Throughout the past week U.S. military officials remained tight lipped about that possibility. It was unclear how many troops would be required to stay behind with the Patriots and F-16s, but Little’s statement said: “All other U.S. personnel assigned to Jordan for Eager Lion will depart at the conclusion of the exercise.”