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Major Ground Force Likely Needed to Guard Syrian Chemical Arms: Pentagon


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The U.S. Defense Department has projected that in excess of 75,000 military personnel might be needed to guard Syria's chemical weapons stocks against theft, CNN reported on Wednesday (see GSN, Feb. 16).

The U.S. Central Command developed the estimate as part of efforts to produce a number of alternatives for President Obama to consider in addressing the growing security situation in Syria.


The Assad regime has come under increasing international recrimination for its use of massive deadly force against civilian opposition forces and army defectors. The death toll after nearly a year of protests is presently estimated at between 5,400 and 7,000.


Protecting Syria's chemical weapons depots and production plants would be "extraordinarily difficult," an anonymous Pentagon official said to CNN. The Defense Department estimates Syria has 50 chemical arsenal and manufacturing facilities, which are supplemented by additional research institutions and storage depots.


"Syria probably has one of the largest programs in the world," said Leonard Spector, deputy director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "It has multiple types of chemical agents," he said, including nerve agents, chlorine and phosgene.


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