US, allies discuss worst over Syria
WASHINGTON - ReutersThe United States and its allies are discussing a worst-case scenario that could require tens of thousands of ground troops to go into Syria to secure chemical and biological weapons sites following the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials.
It is unclear at this stage how such a military mission would be organized and which nations might participate. But some European allies have indicated they are unlikely to join, the sources said.
These secret discussions assume that all of al-Assad’s security forces disintegrate, leaving chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria vulnerable to pillaging.
50,000 or 60,000 troops needed
The scenario also assumes these sites could not be secured or destroyed solely through aerial bombings, given health and environmental risks. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to explain the sensitive discussions, said the U.S. 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 U.S. forces would likely play a role in such a mission. 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 realized, plus additional support forces.