Forces Ready for Syria Contingencies, Dempsey Says
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2013 – U.S. forces are positioned and plans are in place for a range of military options against Bashar Assad's regime in Syria, America's top general testified today before the House Armed Services Committee.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke before the committee along with Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on authorization to use military force in Syria, which President Barack Obama has asked Congress to grant.
The general noted that Obama has determined that a limited military response to Assad's use of chemical weapons -- in one instance killing 1,400 Syrians, including some 400 children -- is in America's national security interest. Chemical weapons have long been outlawed under international agreements, one dating back to 1925, that prohibit their assembly, stockpiling or use.
"We've reached the point at which Assad views chemical weapons as just another military tool in his arsenal, a tool he's willing to use indiscriminately," Dempsey said. "And that's what makes this so dangerous -- dangerous for Syria, dangerous for the region, and dangerous for the world."
Dempsey said he has prepared at the president's request a list of target packages to meet the objectives of deterring the Assad regime's further use of chemical weapons and degrading its military capability to deliver chemical weapons.
"We have both an initial target set and subsequent target sets, should they become necessary," the chairman said. "The planned strikes will disrupt those parts of Assad's forces directly related to the chemical attack of 21 August, degrade his means of chemical weapons delivery, and finally, degrade the assets that Assad uses to threaten his neighbors and to defend his regime."
Dempsey added the strikes will send Assad a deterrent message that the United States can "hold at risk the capabilities he values most."
U.S. forces are ready to carry out the orders of the commander in chief, he said. Dempsey acknowledged that because of sequestration-mandated spending cuts, "the force that sits behind the forward-deployed force" faces readiness issues. But a limited operation in Syria to defend the nation's security interests is feasible, he said.
"I am concerned not about [funding] this operation, but in general that unforeseen contingencies will be impacted in the future if sequestration continues," he said.
Dempsey noted the limited nature of the planned strikes should decrease the potential for miscalculation and escalation, as well as minimize collateral damage. "However, we are postured to address a range of contingencies and we're prepared to support our friends in the region should Assad choose to retaliate," he added.
U.S. troops are exceptionally well trained and prepared, the general told the panel. "I'm honored to represent them," he said. "If called to execute, your military will respond."
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