The Pentagon already has at least 1,000 troops in Jordan, including trainers working with Jordanian forces. The U.S. left about a dozen fighter jets and a Patriot missile battery there after a recent training exercise.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has told Congress that the U.S. military would be prepared to do more training for the Syria opposition if needed.
In response to questioning Wednesday during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Syria, Dempsey said he was “mostly supportive of helping the opposition by their development, by their training and equipping, not by becoming their military arm.”
He provided more details in a July letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services, in which he laid out military options in response to the chemical weapons attack. That letter was sent before Obama announced plans to go to Congress to seek authorization for military strikes in Syria that would be limited in time and scope and would involve no U.S. troops on the ground there.
He said the U.S. could provide between several hundred and several thousand trainers, with a cost of as much as $500 million a year, depending on how large the training mission became. Noting that it would require using “safe areas” outside Syria, he said the risks included “extremists gaining access to additional capabilities, retaliatory cross-border attacks, and insider attacks or inadvertent association with war crimes due to vetting difficulties.”
In hearings this week, some members of Congress complained that the Obama administration has not done enough for the rebels, while others strongly opposed any American military involvement in Syria. Lawmakers warned Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Americans are weary of war and are not willing to spend more money and risk more lives.