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US troop numbers in Jordan surge to record high amid Gaza war

US troop levels in Jordan have soared 20 percent since an Iraqi militia attacked a remote base inside the country

The number of US troops stationed in Jordan has soared to a two-decade high amid Israel's war on Gaza, according to a new congressional report.

US President Joe Biden informed Congress on 7 June that the US had deployed 3,813 to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a nearly 20 percent increase in troop numbers from December.

The troop levels are higher than at any time since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, according to US troop levels reported at the time.

The surge in troop numbers coincides with Israel's war on Gaza, which has seen the relatively stable Kingdom of Jordan cast into the centre of soaring tensions between the US and Iran.

In January, a drone attack by an Iraqi militia on a remote US military outpost in Jordan killed three US soldiers and wounded at least 40 more.

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The attack rattled US policymakers who have long considered Jordan a safe haven for American soldiers and diplomats, MEE reported.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned at the time that the Middle East was in its most "dangerous" place since at least 1973, a reference to the Arab-Israeli war when the US went to Defcon three, the highest alert level during peacetime.

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In response to the attack on Tower 22, the US launched strikes on 85 sites across Iraq and Syria that it said were used by "Iranian proxies" and Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.

No sooner had tensions between Iran and the US calmed, when Israel escalated its own campaign of strikes against Iranian assets.

In April, Israel bombed Iran's consulate in Damascus, killing several top commanders in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, including General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the head of IRGC operations in Syria and Lebanon.

Iran retaliated to the attack by launching over 300 drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles at Israel in a carefully calibrated but unprecedented assault.

'Unimpeded access to Jordanian bases'

Jordan was again cast into the spotlight when it joined the UK, France and the US in helping to down the Iranian projectiles as they crossed Jordanian airspace en route to Israel.

Israel's war on Gaza has put Jordan in a tight spot.

Jordan was the second country after Egypt to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but those ties are deeply unpopular among Jordanians, the majority of whom are of Palestinian descent.

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The US's deepening military footprint in Jordan is not unprecedented.

The kingdom has long been a stable fallback for the US in its campaign against the Islamic State (IS) and preserve its interests in the region, and its Muwaffaq Salti Air Base is a key hub for US drones and fighter jets.

At least 3,000 US troops have operated in Jordan, which has a defence agreement with Washington that allows them "unimpeded access" to many Jordanian military facilities.

Amman is dependent on the US for economic aid, but its military ties to Washington are unpopular at home. In 2021, Jordan's King Abdullah 11 bypassed parliament in order to seal the US defence agreement.

Domestic pressure on Jordan's king over his close ties to the US has only grown since the war on Gaza erupted. Hamas's popularity in Jordan has soared and calls have grown for Amman to sever its peace treaty with Israel.

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