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Commander: Contingency plans under way for Syria

March 19, 2013 • National News


Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, USMC, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, right, accompanied by, from left, Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., commander, U.S. Northern Command and Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 19, 2013, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. European Command, U.S. Northern Command, and U.S. Southern Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2014. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. military commander in Europe said Tuesday that several NATO countries are working on contingency plans for possible military action to end the two-year civil war in Syria as President Bashar Assad’s regime accused U.S.-backed Syrian rebels of using chemical weapons.

The Obama administration rejected the Assad claim as a sign of desperation by a besieged government intent on drawing attention from its war atrocities — some 70,000 dead, more than 1 million refugees and 2.5 million people internally displaced. A U.S. official said there was no evidence that either Assad forces or the opposition had used chemical weapons in an attack in northern Syria.

As the war enters its third year, the U.S. military, State Department officials and the U.N. high commissioner for refugees delivered a dire assessment of a deteriorating situation in Syria and the sober view that even if Assad leaves, the Middle East nation could slip into civil strife similar to the Balkans in the 1990s.

“The Syrian situation continues to become worse and worse and worse,” Adm. James Stavridis, the commander of U.S. European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “No end in sight to a vicious civil war.”

Stavridis, who is retiring soon, said a number of NATO nations are looking at a variety of military operations to end the deadlock and assist the opposition forces, including using aircraft to impose a no-fly zone, providing military assistance to the rebels and imposing arms embargoes.

As with U.S. and international involvement in Libya in 2011, a resolution from the U.N. Security Council and Login to read more

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