April 17th, 2013
01:10 PM ET

U.S. military to step up presence in Jordan in light of Syria civil war

By Barbara Starr

In a critical indication of growing U.S. military involvement in the civil war in Syria, CNN has learned Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is ordering the deployment of up to 200 troops to Jordan, according to two Defense Department officials.

The troops, which will come from the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, "creates an additional capability" beyond what has been there, one official said.

The group will give the United States the ability to "potentially form a joint task force for military operations, if ordered," he said.

The new deployment will include communications and intelligence specialists who will assist the Jordanians and "be ready for military action" if President Barack Obama were to order it, the official said.

This comes as the Pentagon has recently reviewed military options for Syria although Obama has not ordered any to be put into action.

There have been several dozen American troops, mainly special forces, in Jordan for the past year assisting the Jordanians.

But that group has been very ad hoc, the official said. This new deployment makes the U.S. military presence more official and is the first formalized ongoing presence of an American military unit in the Kingdom in recent years.

Rebels in Syria are fighting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

More than 450,000 Syrians are registered as refugees in Jordan.

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