According to a report in Reuters, US diplomatic officials have said the US an its allies are discussing worst-case scenarios that would require tens of thousands of troops to deploy in Syria to secure the country’s chemical and biological weapons sites following the fall of Bashar Assad’s regime.
The secret discussions assume that all of Assad’s security forces will collapse – leaving the dangerous chemical and biological weapon facilities in Syria vulnerable to plundering. The emergency planning also takes into account that the sites could not be destroyed solely through aerial strikes, given the health and environmental fallout.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to explain the sensitive discussions to Reuters, said the US still had no plans to put boots on the ground in Syria. “There is not a imminent plan to deploy ground forces. This is, in fact, a worst-case scenario,” the official said, adding that US forces would, however, likely play a role in such a mission came to pass.
Two diplomatic sources, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said as many as 50,000 or 60,000 ground forces may be needed if officials’ worst fears are realised, plus additional support forces. It is unclear at this stage how such a military incursion would be organised and which nations might participate. The Reuters source noted that some European countries had indicated their willingness to assist in the mission.
While there is no complete accounting of Syria’s unconventional weapons, it is widely believed that it stockpiles the world’s largest collections of nerve agents such as VX, sarin and tabun.
In other Syria related news, the Security Council has decided to let the UN military observer mission’s mandate in Syria expire Sunday and will back a new civilian office there to support UN and Arab League efforts to end the country’s 18-month conflict.