Jordan asked on Wednesday the United States to provide manned US surveillance aircraft to help keep an eye on its border with Syria, the top US military officer said, as the Kingdom struggles to contain fallout from Syria's civil war.
The request came during a visit by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and would further bolster the US military support to Jordan after US decisions to station F-16 aircraft and Patriot missiles there.
“Here in Jordan, in particular, they're interested in what we can do to help them see and secure their very long border with Syria,” Dempsey said, adding the Jordan also sought help better integrating different sources of intelligence.
Dempsey said he had been asking what else the United States could do to better support Jordan, a key ally, and the manned “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” (ISR) aircraft were among the items discussed.
“There's a process that we have for those kind of formal requests and I'll take it back with me to Washington,” he said.
Jordan is reeling from an influx of more than a half a million refugees from Syria, straining stretched state resources and drawing appeals to the international community for help. Dempsey said that issue also came up on Wednesday.
Amid US debate about the merits of any direct military intervention in Syria, Dempsey said that question was not even raised in his discussions in Amman, where he met King Abdullah and his Jordanian counterpart.
“We didn't talk about direct military intervention. That actually never came up. What did come up was discussions about what we could do to help them build their capability and capacity,” he said.
During his Middle East trip, Dempsey has expressed concern about radical elements of the Syrian opposition and stressed the role of regional allies including Jordan in helping identify moderates.
Dempsey also said the question of US lethal support to the Syrian rebels did not come up in his talks in Amman. He said allies in the region understood the complexities of the Syrian conflict.
Dempsey again expressed interest in bolstering Iraq as it grapples with Al Qaeda militants, telling reporters about the possibility of some limited US counter-terrorism training. “If the Iraqis chose to do it ... I'm talking about a very, very small footprint of US experts,” he said.