DENVER (AP) — Prince Feisal Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan said Thursday that the United States has a strong and capable ally in facing Islamic State militants who have swept across the Middle East, and his country will do its best to deal with the expected increase in refugees should the U.S. carry out airstrikes in neighboring Syria.
"It is in times of difficulties that you find out who your friends are," he said. "And in times of difficulties, Jordan and the United States have stood side by side in dealing with a common threat."
The prince was in Denver to mark the 10-year partnership between Jordan and the Colorado National Guard, which share information on topics including aircraft maintenance, cybersecurity and women's leadership.
The meeting with Guard leaders came a day after President Barack Obama ordered the United States into a broad military campaign against Islamic State militants who have taken over parts of Syria and Iraq, two of Jordan's neighbors.
Feisal said Jordan already has seen an influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and his country is trying to balance security with humanitarian aid.
"We foremost want to keep our borders secure from any form of terrorist extremism while also keeping our borders open for the refugees that have come seeking refuge from violence and destruction," he said, adding that it's a "very tough balance."
About 1.5 million Syrian refugees are consuming scarce resources and services in Jordan, which has a weak economy and an unofficial unemployment rate of 30 percent. But Feisal said the partnership with the U.S. allows the two countries to "deal with a very challenging and very complex environment."
"This is not a fight that we have rushed to, but they have singled out Jordan as being the next target," he said of the militants. "We take that threat seriously, and I think we are ready to help in the coalition efforts."
The U.S., concerned that Jordan could be vulnerable to the militant group, is strengthening its intelligence cooperation with the Arab country, one of its strongest allies in the Middle East.
The CIA has approached Robert Richer, a former Marine who was chief of the CIA's Near East division, about setting up a task force to help Jordan deal with the threat from the militant group, according to two former agency officials who would not be quoted by name discussing a secret mission. Richer has close ties to Jordan's King Abdullah II, who has consistently supported the U.S. behind the scenes.
The CIA also has long had close ties to Jordan's intelligence service, and the two countries work closely together against al-Qaida and other extremist groups.
AP Intelligence Writer Ken Dilanian in Washington, D.C., contributed to this story.