'Worst-case scenario' could send US troops to secure Syria's weapons
The United States and its allies are discussing a worst-case scenario that could require tens of thousands of ground troops to go into Syria to secure chemical and biological weapons sites following the fall of President Bashar al-Assad's government, Reuters reported, citing U.S. and diplomatic officials.
A U.S. official who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity stressed that the U.S. has no "imminent plan to deploy ground forces" and that the plan envisioned a scenario in which Syria's military collapsed, leaving the sites unguarded and potentially allowing terrorist groups access to the country's unconventional weapons.
The official said U.S. troops likely would play a role in such a mission. Anonymous diplomatic sources told Reuters securing the weapons could require 50,000 to 60,000 troops.
The size of Syria's stockpile of unconventional weapons is unknown, but the CIA has estimated that it possesses several hundred gallons of chemical weapons, Reuters said.
Western powers and Israel fear nerve agents could be obtained by Hezbollah or al-Qaida-style jihadists. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNN in July that "iit would be a disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands."