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REPORT: 'Over 75,000 troops' needed to secure Syria's chemical weapons stockpile

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

No war is ever won by air bombardment. Conventional wisdom dictates that is U.S. President Barack Obama does attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons, it would take "over 75,000 troops" to secure Syria's chemical weapons.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Those are the findings of the Congressional Research Service, or CRS, in a report released last month.

The draft text of the resolution, which would authorize Obama to use force in Syria, is being taken up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The resolution prohibits the president from putting ground troops in Syria "for the purpose of combat operations." However, it appears to leave open the possibility that the president could put troops in Syria to secure chemical weapons.

"The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations," the text of the draft resolution says.

Section 2 of the resolution gives the president the authority to use the Armed Forces in Syria "as he determines necessary and appropriate" for a limited set of purposes. These measures include "to protect our allies and partners against the use of" weapons of mass destruction."

The Pentagon had estimated it would take "over 75,000 troops" to secure Syria's chemical weapons the day before an August 21 chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus. According to an assessment released by the U.S. government, that attack killed 1,429 people. President Obama announced his intention ten days later to use military force to penalize the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for perpetrating the attack.

"U.S. officials have expressed confidence that chemical weapons stocks in Syria are secured by the Assad regime, which dispatched elite Special Forces for that purpose," the CRS report entitled "Syria's Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress."

The report also claims that the U.S. government has been making contingency plans to make sure the Assad regime's chemical weapons did not fall into the hands of terrorists "in the event of the regime's loss of control."

"Due to the urgency of preventing access to these weapons by unauthorized groups, including terrorists, the United States government has been preparing for scenarios to secure the weapons in the event of the Assad regime's loss of control," the CRS report said.

"However, this presents unique challenges," the report continues. "In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, 2012, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, 'It's 100 times worse than what we dealt with in Libya. And for that reason, that's why it's raised even greater concerns about our ability to address how we can secure those sites.' The Pentagon has estimated that it would take over 75,000 troops to neutralize the chemical weapons."

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