Bridget Johnson writing at PJMedia
...At the request of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and senior committee member John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey drew up a selection of nonclassified options for the potential use of military force in Syria.
Dempsey stressed in the letter to Levin and McCain that he is “mindful that deliberations are ongoing within our government over the further role of the United States in this complex sectarian war.”
“The decision over whether to introduce military force is a political one that our Nation entrusts to its civilian leaders,” he continued. “I also understand that you deserve my best military advice on how military force could be used in order to decide whether it should be used.”
Dempsey offered the options:
Train, Advise, and Assist the Opposition. “This option uses nonlethal forces to train and advise the opposition on tasks ranging from weapons employment to tactical planning. We could also offer assistance in the form of intelligence and logistics. The scale could range from several hundred to several thousand troops with the costs varying accordingly, but estimated at $500 million per year initially. The option requires safe areas outside Syria as well as support from our regional partners. Over time, the impact would be the improvement in opposition capabilities. Risks include extremists gaining access to additional capabilities, retaliatory crossborder attacks, and insider attacks or inadvertent association with war crimes due to vetting difficulties.”............
David Lerman & Terry Atlas writing at Bloomberg:
....Imposing a no-fly zone over Syria would cost as much as $1 billion a month and put U.S. aircraft at risk of being shot down without necessarily toppling Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the U.S. military’s top officer said.
Thousands of U.S. troops would be required on the ground if the U.S. wanted to establish buffer zones to protect targeted geographic areas or to control the proliferation of chemical weapons, Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee that was released today.
Underscoring his reluctance to take military action in Syria, Dempsey said U.S. intervention “could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control,” without the emergence of a “viable opposition.”
Dempsey’s letter is the strongest public statement by a Pentagon leader setting out the dangers of direct involvement in Syria. The war has claimed more than 93,000 lives by United Nations estimates while threatening to destabilize neighboring Jordan and Lebanon and risking a broader regional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.
Members of the Senate Armed Services panel who favor more aggressive military action pressed Dempsey at a hearing last week to disclose what advice he’s giving to President Barack Obama. Dempsey said it would be “inappropriate for me to try to influence the decision” by making public his recommendations to the president when they’re under consideration....