The top US military officer, Martin Dempsey, has outlined five options and costs involved in the potential use of military force in Syria.
In a letter released Monday, Dempsey detailed the options in an open letter to Carl Levin, senate armed services committee chairman.
Here are extracts from the list based on the letter:
1) Train, advise, and assist the opposition
Nonlethal forces to train and advise opposition on tasks ranging from weapons employment to tactical planning. This option might include intelligence and logistics. The scale could range from several hundred to several thousand troops with the costs varying accordingly, but estimated at $500m per year initially. Risks include extremists gaining access to additional capabilities, retaliatory crossborder attacks, and insider attacks or inadvertent association with war crimes due to vetting difficulties.
2) Conduct limited stand-off strikes
Lethal force to strike targets that enable the regime to conduct military operations, proliferate advanced weapons, and defend itself. Potential targets include regime air defense, air, ground, missile, and naval forces as well as the supporting military facilities and command nodes. Stand-off air and missile systems could be used to strike hundreds of targets at a tempo of our choosing. Force requirements would include hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers. Depending on duration, the costs would be in the billions.
3) Establish a No-Fly Zone
This prevents the regime from using military aircraft to bomb and resupply. It would extend air superiority over Syria by neutralising the regime’s advanced, defense integrated air defense system. It would also shoot down adversary aircraft and strike airfields, aircraft on the ground, and supporting infrastructure. Estimated costs are $500m initially, averaging as much as $1bn per month over the course of a year. Impacts include near total elimination of the regime’s ability to bomb opposition strongholds. Risks include the loss of US aircraft.
4) Establish buffer zones
This option protects areas most likely across borders with Turkey or Jordan. The opposition could use these zones to organise and train, and they would serve as safe areas for humanitarian assistance. Lethal force would be required to defend the zones against attacks. This would necessitate the establishment of a limited no-fly zone. Thousands of US ground forces would be needed, even if positioned outside Syria. A limited no-fly zone coupled with US ground forces would push the costs over $1bn per month.
5) Control chemical weapons
We do this by destroying portions of Syria’s stockpile. At a minimum, this option calls for a no-fly zone and air and missile strikes involving hundreds of aircraft, ships and submarines. Thousands of forces would be needed. Costs could also average well over $1bn per month. The impact would be the control of some, but not all chemical weapons. It would also help prevent their further proliferation into the hands of extremist groups. Our inability to fully control Syria’s storage and delivery systems could allow extremists to gain better access.