As U.N. officials negotiate terms of their probe into murky reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, one thing remains clear: An attempt by the United States to seize Syria’s deadly stockpile would be a difficult and dangerous undertaking.
Any successful move to secure the stockpile would likely involve thousands of U.S. troops and a significant commitment of air power to handle numerous tactical challenges. In addition to the risk of potential U.S. casualties at some well-defended sites, the cost for such an operation could easily run into the billions of dollars. There is also the inherent danger of setting off the chemical weapons during an operation—or prompting a desperate Assad regime to actually use its chemical weapons as a trump card.
“The more they look at it, the more difficult the mission appears,” said Gary Samore, who worked on the Syrian chemical weapons issue as ex-White House Coordinator for Arms Control and the Weapons of Mass Destruction. “It would be a huge, complicated undertaking in which all kinds of things could go wrong,” Samore told Defense One.
“I don’t know if it would be a campaign, but it would be a very sophisticated, multi-service, operation,” said former Deputy Commander of the U.S. European Command Charles Wald.. The mission would require knocking out Syrian air defenses and heavy use of special operations forces.
The military has the capability to pull off such an operation. “I can guarantee you that it would not be textbook perfect, but it can be done,” Wald said, but ”can you accept the fact that the results are not so pretty?”
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