Stars and Stripes
July 22, 2013
In letter to Congress, Dempsey outlines Syria options
By Chris Carroll
WASHINGTON: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey has laid out in a letter to Congress the range of options he said the U.S. military is prepared to carry out in Syria if given the go-ahead by civilian leaders.
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services committee last Thursday, Dempsey, who was nominated to his second term as the nation’s top military leader, declined to testify on the options and advice he had given to President Barack Obama on Syria.
That led a frustrated Sen. John McCain, ranking Republican member on the committee and an advocate of greater U.S. support of the Syrian opposition, to threaten a hold on Dempsey’s nomination. McCain and committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., last week sent Dempsey a letter again asking for his views on Syria, as well as a range of other topics, including prospects for U.S. success in Afghanistan.
Dempsey outlined five options for U.S. military action in the Syrian conflict:
* The least involved – a train, advise and assist mission – would require no U.S. troops to be directly involved with fighting as they delivered supplies and training to opposition fighters, Dempsey said.
* A second option, limited stand-off strikes, would target “high-value regime air defense, air, ground, missile, and naval forces as well as the supporting military facilities and command nodes,” with strikes launched from beyond Syrian borders. “Depending on duration, the costs would be in the billions,” Dempsey wrote.
* A third option, establishing a no-fly zone, would go further, taking out Syrian air-defenses to control the skies throughout the country. Because U.S. aircraft would be required to fly over Syrian airspace, the risk to U.S. troops would be higher, Dempsey said.
* The U.S. military could also establish buffer zones to protect Turkey’s or Jordan’s borders, or to protect Syrian civilians, Dempsey wrote. Doing would require partial no-fly zones and carry many of the same risks and costs.
* The fifth and most complex option Dempsey outlined, controlling chemical weapons, would require a no-fly zone, air and missile strikes, and thousands of troops on the ground.
Dempsey’s response, released on Monday, focused on Syria, stressing that the decision on military action is not his to make.
“The decision over whether to introduce military force is a political one that our Nation entrusts to its civilian leaders,” he wrote. “I also understand that you deserve my best military advice on how military force could be used in order to decide whether it should be used. “
And, Dempsey warned, the U.S. should be prepared to deal with the aftermath of any military action.
“Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next,” he said. “Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
Photo: Tomahawk cruise missile launch