U.S. military completes initial planning for Syria
June 14th, 2012
03:27 PM ET

U.S. military completes initial planning for Syria

By Barbara Starr

The U.S. military has completed its own planning for how American troops would conduct a variety of operations against Syria, or to assist neighboring countries in the event action was ordered, officials tell CNN.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon has finalized its assessment of what types of units would be needed, how many troops, and even the cost of certain potential operations, officials tell CNN.

Multiple military officials say initial planning is complete with a full understanding of what types of troops and units would be needed. This has been done so that if President Obama were to ask for options the military would be ready to present them. But officials say additional detailed work would have to be done before forces could be deployed.

The planning comes as the U.S. has become increasingly concerned that the violence in Syria is verging on civil war. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the recent series of bombings have heightened the worry.

Dempsey said it reminded him of the escalating violence during the Iraq war.

The violence "gives us all pause that have been in Iraq and seen how these issues become sectarian and then they become civil wars and then they become very difficult to resolve," Dempsey told CNN in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

A senior U.S. official said the developments have been a matter of discussion in the Obama administration.

"There is a sense that if the sectarian violence in Syria grows, it could be worse than what we saw in Iraq," the official said.

The military planning includes a scenario for a no-fly zone as well as protecting chemical and biological sites. Officials say all the scenarios would be difficult to enact and involve large numbers of U.S. troops and extended operations.

The planning, officials insist, is being done protectively and there have been no orders for any action from the White House.

The U.S. Navy is maintaining a presence of three surface combatants and a submarine in the eastern Mediterranean to conduct electronic surveillance and reconnaissance on the Syrian regime, a senior Pentagon official said. The official emphasized that the U.S. routinely maintains this type of naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, but acknowledged the current focus is on Syria.

The United States, Britain and France have all been discussing contingency scenarios, potential training and sharing of intelligence about what is happening in Syria with neighboring countries including Jordan, Turkey and Israel. But it is Jordan, so far, that is most seeking the help because of its relatively small military and potential need for outside help if unrest in southern Syria were to impact Jordan's security.

U.S. special forces are training and advising Jordanian troops on a range of specific military tasks they might need to undertake if unrest in Syria spills over into Jordan or poses a threat to that country, three Defense Department officials told CNN. The officials declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the training. Jordanian officials also are refusing to publicly confirm details, but a senior Middle Eastern government official also confirmed details to CNN.

The U.S. has been training in Jordan using mainly special operations forces under a program called Joint Combined Exchange Training, which sends troops overseas to train foreign soldiers and units in specific missions. Jordan's major security concern is that if the Syrian regime were to suddenly collapse, then it would face unrest on its northern border, as well as the possibility of large refugee flows, weapons smuggling into Jordan, and potential disarray in Syria's chemical and biological weapons complex. Jordan also is considering how and where to potentially set up humanitarian assistance bases inside its borders, another matter the U.S. is advising it on.

The Jordanians do not believe regime of Bashir al-Assad would attack them. But they have made it clear to the United States they want the training so they are ready to move quickly if any scenario develops that could destabilize their country, which is already reeling politically from a collapsing economy. While there's no formal agreement, one of the U.S. officials said the U.S. would come to the defense and support of Jordan in the event any of the Syria scenarios pose a challenge.

While there is no current scenario for putting U.S. troops on the ground in Jordan or Syria, the U.S. could wind up providing air support to move Jordanian troops to the border. In addition, American forces could provide a wide range of intelligence and surveillance capabilities to Jordan so they would have up-to-date information on what is happening on the Syrian side of their border region. In one of the most extreme scenarios, a small unit of Jordanian troops could move into Syria to protect a chemical or biological weapons site.

U.S. satellites are monitoring the chemical and biological weapons sites around the clock, and so far "there is no reason to believe they are not secure," one of the U.S. officials said.

The U.S. believes the facilities are guarded by some of the most elite Alawite troops loyal to al-Assad. But the official noted that the opposition forces appear to be gaining strength in some areas, and that the United States, Jordan and the allies are concerned that as the amount of al-Assad controlled territory shrinks, some of those critical facilities could be open to attacks, pilfering or efforts by terrorist groups to buy material.

"This is getting a fair amount of attention," another U.S. official told CNN. Also discussed with Jordanian forces was the possible need for U.S. chemical and biological weapons detecting equipment, the official said.

The overall assessment by the U.S. is that in the event some action had to be taken to secure Syrian chemical, biological or weapons facilities, troops from some country would have to enter Syria in a matter of hours.

This latest training is said to be separate from the recent multinational "Eager Lion 2012" training exercise that took place in Jordan.

During that exercise, U.S. and Jordanian troops also practiced many of the same scenarios, but the JCET training is much more focused, according to the officials.

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Filed under: Assad • Dempsey • Jordan • Middle East • Military • Syria
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  27. Albert Shanker

    Is there congressional approval for this action? Was there for Libya? Congress approved Iraq and Afghanistan. We have NO IDEA what we are getting into. Gadaffi was on our side in the end and warned us about al-qeda . Just a matter of time till the whole region blows!

    December 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  28. Febi

    must be fair to say that the french are inaitidudlisvic, in a not-so-humble way. if you get past that character of them, i guess you can go along well with any other nationalities. (i don't really buy the donation thing.)i am not fond of french people but the very few i like i really look up to. (uhm, like truffaut and godard and bazin, haha)

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  30. avi

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  31. Nasim

    The probability of international intervention should go on the table immediately ,before huge number of other people are slathered by the Al Assad Oppressor, Russia & China tend to protect the regime,keep up destroying economic, roots , the loyal military will soon realize that they are wrong and Bashar Al sad should step down.

    July 24, 2012 at 1:29 am | Reply
  32. Gazza

    A whole article about the US attacking another arab country. And no mention of Syria's ally Russia. If Putin doesn't protect Syria then he would be finished.

    July 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
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      July 24, 2012 at 2:33 am | Reply
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    Why do the desert people take the stocks off of their rifles?

    July 13, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Reply
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      ignorant human being. Syrians are mediterranian.

      July 24, 2012 at 3:35 am | Reply
  34. jamfanwp

    We are building powers in this part of the world. What the US wants is the rest of the mid-east to look at the UAE. The UAE is were you should put your money as the soul opportunity for peace in the middle east. Them, and Pakistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan are now our "horses" in the race. It's merely a question of cleaning up the people that tip everyone off over there. Pakistan is dirty but the majority of them are committed to the US cause. They have had no less of a problem with the taliban than we have. Every country in the world might talk big until there's a US aircraft carrier floating off their shore and B2's flying over bombing everything important. Those are just the toys too big to hide or that we've taken out of the closet. The middle east has realized they can overthrow these tyrants they are led and oppressed by. It's only natural once one country starts the neighbors pick up too. Israel scares me though, they keep their fingers on the nuke button and backing them into a corner is like backing a wet cat into a corner. They can fight for 10 days before they need to demobilize and that makes them a little more "stern". I worry how they will react with russia involved on their northern border in a civil war. They could potentially take syria for their own safety. They are protected by the US, and off the hinges more than any country we deal with, very dangerous.

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  35. Frock

    Have we considered the potential scenario that ending this conflict, and eventually resolving the Iranian issues, will bring the world as close to world peace as it has ever known.

    July 7, 2012 at 3:18 am | Reply
    • h nassor

      No, taking Iran wont be as easy as you think, Iran has been aware of US mission long ago, and they are more than ready to resist. Saudi arabia and Qatar are the next crumbling empires, because there are more hatred of US politics than any other country in the Gulf, only puppets kings and emirs are not aware of that, Iran is not only Iran, It is Shia community, and Shia are all over the world and receiving orders from Teheran, I dont think US arent smart enough to realize that.

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        August 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  36. Tom

    god you people are stupid. Literally like 2 of you even have a clue. Russia is selling Syria arms, a lot of arms, $5 billion or something under current contract. USA can't go in because RUSSIA is supporting Al-ASSAD. Furthermore, the Serian rebels are now being supported by Turkey (border haven, google it), Saudi-Arabia, etc. You are about to see this country explode into civil war. US & Nato will not enter though I bet.

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  37. Uk Jack

    You american idiots still don t understand. The elite need to take over Syria then have elections and put in a western friendly goverment by proxy. Here in the UK it s all getting geared up for this to take place..The people doing the killing are paid mercinaries by the west in order to have total chaos to lead the way for Nato intervention then regime change.

    Open your eyes..

    June 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply
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