The US and Jordanian militaries have stepped up a secret program to train thousands of armed fighters to send into Syria with the apparent aim of carving out a buffer zone in the south of the country.
Citing unnamed US and Jordanian officials, the Washington Post reported Wednesday that Washington has ordered the training of some 3,000 officers for the so-called Syrian rebels to be completed sooner than originally planned. The aim is to finish the training program by the end of this month to exploit advances made by anti-government militias along Syria's 230-mile border with Jordan.
Last October it was revealed that the Pentagon had dispatched a 150-strong special operations task force to Jordan. At the time, the New York Times reported that "the idea of establishing a buffer zone between Syria and Jordan -- which would be enforced by Jordanian forces on the Syrian side of the border -- had been discussed in conjunction with the setting up of the US military outpost, located near the Syrian border."
On Wednesday, anti-regime forces reportedly captured an air defense base on the outskirts of the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa, just miles from the Jordanian border. Earlier, they seized the main border crossing between the two countries, along with two military outposts and a stretch of highway leading to Damascus.
The Jordanian monarchy backs a buffer zone largely as a matter of self-preservation. It fears the Syrian civil war will spill over the border threatening its own rule. There are already some 470,000 Syrian refugees in the country and concern is growing within the Jordanian regime that the Islamist elements unleashed against the government of Bashir al-Assad will seek to bring about regime change in Jordan as well.