(Newsroom America) -- The United States has sent a contingent of troops to the Jordan-Syria border, to bolster the desert kingdom's forces in the event that the neighboring civil war spills over, reports said Thursday.
Speaking to defense ministers at a NATO conference in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Washington has been working with Jordan to monitor chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria, particularly as that country's civil war has widened.
U.S. forces are also helping the Jordanians deal with an influx of refugees from Syria, reports said. They are also building themselves a headquarters compound.
The presence of U.S. military forces so close to the 19-month-old conflict suggests a change in American strategy regarding the conflict, even as the Obama administration has pushed back against calls from some quarters for direct military involvement in Syria.
"We have a group of our forces there working to help build a headquarters there and to insure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one so that we can deal with all the possible consequences of what's happening in Syria," Panetta said.
U.S. and NATO officials have expressed concern over the status of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. U.S. intelligence officials believe the weapons are safe but that the regime of President Bashar Assad may have moved them to a more secure location recently.
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