Apr 18 2013

Washington Post: Hagel: US sending Army planning unit to Jordan; will enhance effort on Syrian border

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is sending about 200 soldiers from an Army headquarters unit to Jordan to assist efforts to contain violence along the Syrian border and plan for any operations needed to ensure the safety of chemical weapons in Syria, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress Wednesday.

The decision to dispatch the 1st Armored Division troops of planners and specialists in intelligence, logistics and operations comes as several lawmakers pressed the Obama administration for even more aggressive steps to end the two-year civil war.

Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced persistent questions from senior members of the Armed Services Committee about efforts to force out Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Pentagon leaders made clear that the situation is extremely complicated and they must be certain of the endgame before any military step to try to end the bloodshed.

“You better be damned sure. No-fly zone, safe zone. Once you’re in, you can’t unwind it,” Hagel said.

Dempsey said he has spent a significant portion of his adult life trying to figure out the Mideast. “This is the toughest of all,” he said.

Hagel said the fresh troops will replace a similar number of U.S. forces that have been in Jordan for some months. They also will provide leadership personnel that could command additional forces if it’s determined they are needed in the future.

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