A drill involving about 4,000 paratroopers and 95 tons of air-dropped gear offered a dramatic preview of one possible U.S. action to seize control of chemical warfare stocks in Syria, CBS News reported on Friday.
Members of the 82nd Airborne Division took over an airstrip and staged a helicopter offensive on a mock chemical weapons storage facility as part of the practice maneuvers in North Carolina.
"Chemical weapons are not something we've encountered in the last 10 years of counterinsurgency," division chief Maj. Gen. John Nicholson said. "So there's many dimensions to the issue of securing chemical stockpiles that we're working through right now."
"We want to minimize the risk to our paratroopers ... and then how do we deal with the potential hazards to the locals in that area, to the civilians," he said.
The U.S. military brass has briefed President Obama on multiple potential methods of armed intervention in Syria's civil war, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said in remarks quoted on Thursday by the London Telegraph. Options include launching missiles at chemical arms sites and other government assets, as well as enforcing aircraft restrictions or deploying land forces.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday vowed to hold up Dempsey's confirmation to a new two-year term because the top military officer declined to provide his personnel assessment of whether U.S. attacks in Syria are warranted. Dempsey deferred to "elected officials" on the matter, the New York Times reported.
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond suggested the United Kingdom could deploy military personnel in the hundreds to secure Syrian chemical arms, the London Daily Mail reported on Thursday.