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With eye on Syria, US says F-16s, Patriot missiles will stay in Jordan

A detachment of U.S. F-16s and a Patriot missile battery will stay behind at the conclusion of a military exercise now taking place in Jordan, the Pentagon said Saturday.

The statement came a day after U.S. military officials said that for now they were ruling out a no-fly zone over neighboring Syria, which is wracked by civil war. Jordan made the request for the jets to remain.

Exercise Eager Lion includes nearly 2,000 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, ashore from the helicopter carrier USS Kearsarge. It is scheduled to end June 23.

A senior defense official said that the United States will leave one Patriot battery and one F-16 detachment behind. A detachment is smaller than a squadron, which usually has about 18-24 planes, so about one dozen would remain.

“All other U.S. personnel assigned to Jordan for Eager Lion will depart at the conclusion of the exercise," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement. "The United States enjoys a long-standing partnership with Jordan and is committed to its defense."

Muzaffar Salman / Reuters

A look back at the conflict that has overtaken the country.

The U.S. said this week that it would give military aid to the Syrian rebels, and U.S. military officials said Friday that the help would begin with such basic equipment as body armor and night-vision goggles and then shift to light weapons.

The U.S. military could also provide the rebels with strategic and tactical combat training, most likely in Jordan.

On Saturday, Reuters reported, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said he had cut all diplomatic ties with Syria and would back a no-fly zone, which is staunchly opposed by Russia.