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US military chief recommends increasing security assistance to Lebanon, Iraq

 

The United States may begin sending small teams of U.S. military trainers to Lebanon and Iraq in the near future to help local military forces deal with spillover from the war in Syria, a top general announced Wednesday.

U.S. officials are also discussing speeding up foreign military sales to get Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey the necessary weapons and equipment to handle the violence coming across their borders.

The Department of Defense has recommended that U.S. Central Command begin drawing up plans for the U.S. military to help Syria's neighbors deal with violence spilling over the border from the war-ravaged nation.

"We've made a recommendation that, as we look at the challenges faced by the Lebanese armed forces, the Iraqi security forces with a re-emerging al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Jordanians, that we would work with them to help them build additional capability," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Wednesday.

One of the options for helping Syria's neighbors would be for the United States to send small teams of U.S. military trainers to work with each nation's armed forces.

"Militarily, what we're doing is assisting our partners in the region, the neighbors of Syria, to ensure that they're prepared to account for the potential spillover effects," Dempsey said during a briefing, citing the recent announcement that the U.S. left some Patriot missile batteries and F- 16s in Jordan to aid that country's defense.

Dempsey said the U.S. military is already working with the Iraqi military, the Lebanese armed forces, and Turkey.

A senior defense official stressed that the Joint Chiefs made these recommendations "in recent weeks," but he is not aware of any small teams of U.S. military trainers in Lebanon or Iraq right now working specifically on Syrian war spillover defenses.

The official could not say for certain whether this move would be the first time since December 2011 that U.S. military trainers would be sent back to Iraq to work with the Iraqi Security Forces.

Another option for helping Syria's neighbors would be to speed up foreign military sales and equipment to these nations.

"This is about building their capability, not ours," Dempsey said.

Meanwhile, Syrian activist groups said Wednesday that the death toll in the country’s civil war had topped 100,000. The United Nations had put the death toll from the 27-month-old conflict at 93,000 by the end of April.