Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday said Jordan would accommodate a new U.S. armed forces command center intended in part to support preparations for a possible intervention aimed at locking down chemical warfare stocks in war-torn Syria, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The 1st Armored Division outpost could make ready for a broader U.S. military deployment that might exceed 20,000 personnel if President Obama deems forcible involvement in Syria to be necessary, Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He added, though, that "military intervention ... should be an option of last resort."
Reports differed on the size of the planned outpost. The Times reported Pentagon plans to field roughly 200 people, while the Wall Street Journal said the new contingent would raise the number of U.S. military personnel in Jordan from 150 to 250.
Hagel and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey declined to comment on whether Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime had employed chemical arms in the 2-year-old conflict, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said the Syrian government had yet to admit international investigators to examine claims of chemical attacks at several locations, the Associated Press reported. Damascus wants the probe at least initially limited to examining a March 19 incident in the town of Khan al-Assal.
"The team of experts is ready to deploy as quickly as we have the Syrian government's consent," the U.N. chief stated. "The mission is to be able to investigate all the allegations made by the member states. I have been urging the Syrian government to show flexibility."