Eyeing Syria, U.S. Paratroopers Rehearse Seizure of Chemical Arms
July 19, 2013
A drill involving about 4,000 paratroopers and 95 tons of air-dropped gear
offered a dramatic preview of one possible U.S. action to seize control of
chemical warfare stocks in Syria, CBS News reported on Friday.
Members of the 82nd Airborne Division took over an airstrip and staged a
helicopter offensive on a mock chemical weapons storage facility as part of
the practice maneuvers in North Carolina.
"Chemical weapons are not something we've encountered in the last 10 years
of counterinsurgency," division chief Maj. Gen. John Nicholson said. "So
there's many dimensions to the issue of securing chemical stockpiles that
we're working through right now."
"We want to minimize the risk to our paratroopers ... and then how do we
deal with the potential hazards to the locals in that area, to the
civilians," he said.
The U.S. military brass has briefed President Obama on multiple potential
methods of armed intervention in Syria's civil war, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said in remarks quoted on Thursday by the
London Telegraph. Options include launching missiles at chemical arms sites
and other government assets, as well as enforcing aircraft restrictions or
deploying land forces.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday vowed to hold up Dempsey's
confirmation to a new two-year term because the top military officer
declined to provide his personnel assessment of whether U.S. attacks in
Syria are warranted. Dempsey deferred to "elected officials" on the matter,
the New York Times reported.
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond suggested the United Kingdom could
deploy military personnel in the hundreds to secure Syrian chemical arms,
the London Daily Mail reported on Thursday.
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