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Officials: Troop buildup in Jordan is not for an invasion of southern Syria

May 11, 2017 (Photo Credit: Cpl. Lauren Falk/Marine Corps)
A massive buildup of U.S., British and Jordanian armored vehicles at the Zarqa Jordanian military base near the Syrian border — depicted in photos circulating on social media — is for an annual training exercise called Eager Lion, not an invasion of southern Syria, according to officials at U.S. Central Command.

"We do not have any U.S. forces in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan preparing for an invasion of any nation. All speculation on social and traditional media are completely false and without merit," said Maj. Josh Jacques, a CENTCOM spokesman.

Even Jordanian forces were skeptical of claims of the pending invasion emanating across various media circles. 

"We should not intervene in the Syrian conflict unless there is a clear and present terrorist threat to our national security," retired Gen. Mousa al-Odwan, a former commander of Jordan's Special Forces, told Al Jazeera.

The photos in question quickly spread across media circles. Even an Iranian English news service called Fars reported this week that Syrian forces had deployed several hundred troops along the southern border to deter a pending invasion by U.S., British and Jordanian forces.

Exercise Eager Lion is an annual military exercise described as “one of U.S. Central Command’s premiere exercises," according to Jacques.

The military exercise, usually held in May, boasts participation from nearly two dozen countries and about 3,600 U.S. troops. The training includes countering conventional and unconventional threats, border security, command and control, cyber defense and battlespace management.

A total of about 7,400 troops will be involved in this year’s exercise.

Jordan has been a partner in the war against ISIS. The small Hashemite Kingdom has hosted U.S. forces to assist in the training of Syrian opposition fighters.

Last November, three U.S. Special Forces soldiers working train to moderate members of the Free Syrian Army, a group fighting the Assad regime, were gunned down outside Prince Faisal Air Base near Jafr, Jordan, according to a report by the Washington Post.

Jordan has also hosted thousands of U.S troops and equipment in support of the counter ISIL campaign including U.S. artillery systems such as the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS where U.S. and Jordanian soldiers have been raining deadly rockets on ISIL fighters in Syria with pinpoint precision. 

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