Syrian disabled refugees in Jordan celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan. / Mohammad Hannon, AP
AMMAN, Jordan - A special U.S. task force designed to help Jordan cope with thousands of refugees and the threat of violence spilling over from neighboring Syria will probably remain here for "several years," the top U.S. commander said Thursday.
"It will depend on how the situation evolves in Syria," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a visit to a converted warehouse where the unit is headquartered. "It also depends on how our Jordanian counterparts feel about their ability to deal with these issues."
"We haven't put an end date on it," he said.
Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the region, has been flooded with more than 500,000 refugees and faces the threat of violence spilling across a long border it shares with Syria.
A task force headquarters of about 270 personnel works with Jordanian forces to build their capabilities and assists in facilitating aid for the refugees. The United States also has a contingent of F-16 fighter planes and Patriot air defense missiles in the country.
Dempsey addressed the service members in a cavernous building where the audience sat at long plywood desks.
"You're here to help us principally partner with our Jordanian teammates to ensure and assure that in a very volatile region at a very critical time in our history that they can count on us," Dempsey said.
Dempsey said a key role of the task force is to gain an understanding of the issues Jordan is facing, as it copes with a civil war across the border that has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and has lasted more than two years.
Jordanian officials have expressed concerns that the fighting in neighboring Syria and the impact of thousands of refugees could lead to instability within its own borders.
"We're at our best when we can actually shape events and prevent conflict," Dempsey said.
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Read the original story: U.S. task force in Jordan to stay for years, Dempsey says