- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

THNEIBEH, Jordan (AP) - Jordan is deploying more forces to face a growing threat to its borders, as Islamic State extremists in neighboring Iraq and Syria are being dislodged from some strongholds, the commander of the kingdom’s border guards said Thursday.

The IS group, which seized large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, is under intense military pressure in both countries and has lost significant territory in recent months. U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recently announced the recapture of the eastern side of Mosul, the northern city where they have been waging a three-month-old offensive.

Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, commander of Jordan’s border forces, said he expects some of the retreating IS fighters to make their way to southern Syria, close to Jordan.

IS-affiliated groups already hold positions in southern Syria, some a few hundred meters from the border, the commander said, ahead of a tour of military positions along the western-most stretch of Jordan’s border with Syria.

One such position, Thneibeh, faces the small Syrian village of Qusair, across the Yarmouk River.

Qusair is controlled by an IS-affiliated group, said Col. Rami Sondos, a border official. Another Syrian village, separated from Qusair by a deep ravine, is run by Syrian rebels.

The Syrian groups mostly fight each other, trading fire between the two villages, as the Jordanian troops observe.

During Thursday’s visit, a soldier perched on a lookout in a watchtower monitored the villages through large, mounted binoculars. A camera used at night can detect movement eight kilometers (five miles) into Syria, while cameras mounted at other border posts have a reach of 20 kilometers, Sondos said.

Infiltration attempts from Syria, including by drug smugglers suspected of ties to the militants, have so far been one of the biggest threats, border officials said.

Kafawin said that if more IS fighters reach southern or eastern Syria, “we expect everything to be armed, to be dangerous, to become a real threat to the Jordan borders,” including possible car bombs and suicide attacks.

Jordan, which is part of a U.S.-led anti-IS military coalition, has been “deploying more and more forces to the borders,” currently close to half the military’s personnel and resources, the commander said.

This is a sharp increase from before the 2011 outbreak of the Syria conflict, he added.

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