“Let me be clear,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday (video here). “There will be no boots on the ground,” For emphasis, he added:
The president has said that again and again. And there is nothing in this authorization that should contemplate it. And, we reiterate, no boots on the ground.
But a memo to the U.S. Department of Defense prepared for President Obama in early 2012 indicated that securing Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles and the facilities that produced them would require boots on the ground —75,000 pairs of them in fact. From MailOnline:
U.S. Central Command arrived at the figure of 75,000 ground troops as part of a written series of military options for dealing with Bashar al-Assad more than 18 months ago, long before the U.S. confirmed internally that the Syrian dictator was using the weapons against rebel factions within his borders.
The report, the article goes on to note, was prepared in response to a request by the National Security Advisor's staff. A Department of Defense official with knowledge of the inquiry told MailOnline on Wednesday:
DoD spent lots of time and resources on it. Everyone understood that this wasn't a pointless exercise, and that eventually we would be tasked with going and getting the VX and sarin, so there was lots of due diligence.
The logistical difficulties outlined in the report stand in stark contrast to the text of the War Powers Resolution, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee late Wednesday on a bipartisan 10-7 vote. That resolution plainly states that it “does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations.”
Despite his efforts at clarity, Kerry has waffled on the question of boots on the ground. On Tuesday, the day before his Senate testimony, he mused on the “threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else and it was clearly in the interest of our allies and all of us — the British, the French and others — to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements.”
In reaction to this scenario, Kerry said, “I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country,”
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