A secret U.S. military task force is helping the Jordanian government prepare for the consequences of the ongoing civil war in neighboring Syria, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, the force, led by a senior U.S. Army officer, is helping Jordan prepare for the possibility that additional refugees or fighting could spill over into the country or that the Syrian regime's chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands.
The force reportedly includes some 150 planners and experts, and is operating out of a Jordanian military base located in a former rock quarry north of the capital, Amman.
At present, the Americans are helping the government handle an influx of some 180,00 Syrian refugees, whose presence has strained the country's infrastructure.
Unnamed American officials also told the Times that the establishment of a buffer zone, enforced by Jordanian soldiers and supported logistically by the U.S., has been considered as a contingency plan.
Thus far, the Obama administration has declined to intervene directly in the conflict, though it has sent communications equipment and other assistance to rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad. The presence of the force could indicate increased American involvement in the conflict.
Officials from the Pentagon and a spokesman from the Jordanian Embassy in the U.S. declined to comment on the report.
Syria and Turkey have been exchanging fire along the former's northern border for the past week. On Wednesday, Turkey's military chief said his country would respond "with more force" against Syria if shelling from the country continued.
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