US ground and air forces held joint exercises with their Jordanian counterparts on Wednesday as the conflict in neighbouring Syria showed no let-up.
Among those taking part in this year’s war games are more than 1,000 soldiers and marines that Washington kept stationed in Jordan after last year’s “Eager Lion” manoeuvres.
The exercises centred on the sprawling Muwaffaq Salti air base in the eastern desert, which has long been seen as the mostly likely launchpad for any US intervention in Syria, like that which Washington briefly threatened late last year.
“The Royal Jordanian and US Air Forces carried out live fire exercises with F-16 and F-18 fighters, and practised aerial manoeuvres,” the official Petra news agency reported.
In another part of the air component of the exercise dubbed “Falcon Air Meet”, “Jordanian special forces and US marines deployed onto a building from a Black Hawk helicopter backed by Cobras,” it added.
The manoeuvres, which are to last for several weeks and involve thousands of personnel from a total of 24 countries, came as US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel made a lightning visit to Jordan Wednesday for talks on the Syrian conflict.
Hopes for a resumption of peace talks have dimmed ahead of a controversial June 3 election which is expected to return President Bashar al-Assad to office and which the opposition and much of the international community have dismissed as a “farce.”
The Pentagon chief held talks with Jordan’s Crown Prince Faisal and armed forces chief General Mashal al-Zaben, before flying on to Tel Aviv, a Jordanian official said.
“This visit will highlight the US commitment to the defence of Jordan, where more than 1,000 US personnel are on the ground working closely with Jordanian defence authorities,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said last week.