The Pentagon has provided lawmakers with a detailed list of military options to support the rebels in the Syrian civil war but has said any campaign to tilt the balance away from President Bashar al-Assad would be a vast undertaking and cost the U.S. billions of dollars.
According to The New York Times
, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined five options in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, but warned, "Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid."
Dempsey said a decision to use force "is no less than an act of war," adding, "We could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control."
The proposal comes as the White House has begun to acknowledge that without more intervention from the U.S., Assad may be in power for at least another year.
The first option outlined in the letter focuses on training, advising and assisting the rebels.
The Pentagon estimates it would require anywhere from several hundred to several thousand U.S. troops at a cost of about $500 million a year.
A second option would be to conduct an offensive of limited, long-range strikes on high-value government military targets. That approach would require hundreds of aircraft and warships to the tune of billions of dollars over time.
A third option, Dempsey said, is a no-fly zone at the cost of $1 billion dollars per month to shoot down government warplanes and destroy airfields and hangars.
The establishment of a buffer zone is another option. It would be used to protect parts of Turkey or Jordan, provide a safe haven for Syrian rebels to train and organize, and a base for delivering humanitarian assistance. That option would likely require thousands of U.S. ground forces.
A final option would be a mission to prevent the use or proliferation of chemical weapons. It would entail destroying portions of Syria's stockpile, interdicting shipments and seizing other components. At minimum, it would require a no-fly zone and a significant campaign of air and missile strikes, according to the Times.
"Thousands of Special Operations forces and other ground forces would be needed to assault and secure critical sites," Dempsey wrote, according to the Times. He estimated it would cost well over $1 billion a month.
To date, the White House has limited its proposed military involvement in the conflict to supplying the rebels with small arms and other weapons. The plan has recently been supported by both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
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