US military team in Jordan to help with Syria crisis

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A US military team has been deployed to Jordan to assist the key American ally manage the refugee flow and instability from the Syrian conflict next door, the Pentagon has acknowledged.

A U.S. defense official, speaking to the Associated Press, said some “100 military planners and other personnel stayed in Jordan after attending an annual May exercise and several dozen more have flown in since,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The US military task force operates out of a US-Jordan military base north of Amman.

The task force, led by a senior American officer, is “now largely focused on helping Jordanians handle the estimated 180,000 Syrian refugees who have crossed the border and are severely straining the country‚Äôs resources,” the New York Times reported. Its mission “also includes drawing up plans to try to insulate Jordan …from the upheaval in Syria and to avoid the kind of clashes now occurring along the border of Syria and Turkey.”

The US official “stressed that the team is not there to fight, but rather for contingency planning on a number of issues including how to handle the flood of Syrian refugees in Jordan and creating a buffer zone to protect the ally in the continuing crisis,” the AP report said.

Jordan’s King Abdullah dissolved parliament October 4th to make way for the country’s first post-Arab spring parliamentary elections, due to be held early next year.

Jordan has been seeing growing domestic political protests in recent weeks. Last Friday (Oct. 5), the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, “was able to gather tens of thousands of people in downtown Amman to call for a boycott of upcoming legislative elections, constituting the most serious challenge to King Abdullah‘s agenda in 22 months of weekly protests throughout the country,” journalist Katie Paul reported from Amman for Al-Monitor.

(Photo: Former Jordanian lawmaker Rudaina Al Atti (R), carrying a picture of her with Jordan’s King Abdullah, walks past a cleaner as she leaves the parliament after packing her belongings in Amman October 7, 2012. Jordan’s King Abdullah on October 4 dissolved the country’s pro-government rubber stamp parliament, a constitutional move to pave the way for elections expected early next year. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed.)

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