The Pentagon's top general has outlined the
risks of US military support for Syrian rebels in a letter to
Congress, saying it might be effective but also could be costly,
according to media reports Tuesday.
Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined five options for delivering the support: more training of the rebels; limited airstrikes; setting up a no-fly zone;
setting up a buffer zone inside Syria outside government control; and securing Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.
The options are not new, but they - and Dempsey's cost estimates that ranged up to 1 billion dollars a month to impose a no-fly zone - come as the White House has agreed to supply limited military support to the rebels.
Last week, the House and Senate intelligence committees nodded their approval for CIA weapons shipments to Syrian rebels, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. Although Congressional approval is not required to initiate the programme, Obama has pledged to keep Congress involved and informed.
Obama and other US officials have long maintained that "all options" outside the deployment of ground troops were possible on Syria.
Dempsey said that the cost for US troops to train and assist rebel forces outside of Syria could be 500 million dollars a year.
Dempsey said a no-fly zone would require "hundreds of ground and sea-based aircraft, intelligence and electronic warfare support," with estimated costs of at least 500 million dollars a year but ranging up to 1 billion dollars a month.
Last week, the White House was asked if it was too late to help the rebels. Spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that there were "ups and downs on the battlefield and changes in momentum" but added: "The fact is, Bashar al-Assad will never again rule Syria in the way that he did before."
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