Pentagon Adjusts Plans for More Intense Attacks on Syria
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is preparing for a longer bombardment of Syria than it originally had planned, with a heavy barrage of missile strikes followed soon after by more attacks on targets that the opening salvos missed or failed to destroy, officials said.
The planning for intense attacks over a three-day period reflects the growing belief in the White House and the Pentagon that the United States needs more firepower to inflict even minimal damage on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, which have been widely dispersed over the last two weeks, the officials said.
Two U.S. officers said the White House asked for an expanded target list in recent days to include many more than the 50 or so targets on the initial list. As a result, Pentagon planners are weighing whether to use Air Force bombers, in addition to five warships now on patrol in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, to launch cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles from hundreds of miles offshore, well out of range of Syrian air defenses.
Syria is also within range of an aircraft carrier strike group in the Red Sea, which includes one cruiser and three destroyers, all capable of firing cruise missiles.
“There will be several volleys and an assessment after each volley, but all within 72 hours and a clear indication when we are done,” said one officer familiar with the planning.
The officers requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the campaign.
The stepped-up military planning comes as President Obama and his aides prepared to press their own offensive to seek public support, as well as congressional votes for authorization to use military force to punish Assad’s government for alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians last month.