Jordanian Islamists reject U.S. troop deployment

US soldiers prepare their gear during the Eager Lion joint military exercise near the Jordan–Saudi border, 260 km south of Amman. (AFP)

Jordan’s Islamist opposition on Friday denounced the presence of US troops in the kingdom due to deteriorating security in neighboring Syria, urging a rethink of the deployment.

“The government must review its decision to authorize the deployment of foreign troops on Jordanian soil,” the Islamic Action Front, political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, said in a statement.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed on Wednesday that some 150 U.S. military specialists have been deployed in Jordan since last year and that he had ordered a U.S. Army headquarters team to bolster the mission, bringing the total American presence to more than 200 troops.

“These personnel will continue to work alongside Jordanian Armed Forces to improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios,” said Hagel.

The U.S. troops were deployed to Jordan to help secure chemical weapons amid fears they could fall into the hands of Islamist militants fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and prepare for a possible spillover from Syria.

Assad, whose regime has been battling rebels trying to oust him since March 2011, warned in an interview Wednesday with Syrian television that the war in his country could spread to Jordan which he said was allowing rebels free movement.

“The Islamic Action Front... categorically refuses the presence of foreign troops in Jordan,” the statement said, stressing that Jordan’s armed forces were capable of defending the nation.

Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani told AFP on Wednesday that the U.S. deployment was “to boost the Jordanian armed forces in light of the deteriorating situation in Syria.”

But the army denied this and said in a statement on Thursday: “The 200 U.S. troops have nothing to do with Syria’s situation. They are the first of the groups that will take part of the annual Eager Lion military exercise, in which 15 countries are participating.”

“The Jordan Armed Forces have the required capabilities to defend Jordan’s borders, stability and security against any threat,” it added, saying the drill will take place “in the coming weeks.”

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Last Update: Friday, 19 April 2013 KSA 12:32 - GMT 09:32
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