It Sure Looks A Lot Like The US Is Gearing Up To Hit Syria Hard

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.S. Navy sailors stand by fighter jets on the deck of the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. The carrier is currently deployed in the Persian Gulf, supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the military operation against Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq.
Photo by AP/Petr David Josek

The Pentagon is presenting options for a broader military intervention in Syria to White House officials, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, U.S. officials said on Thursday.


The news came hours after Reuters reported that officials were considering military action after Syrian government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad reportedly carried out a chemical attack targeting the village of Khan Shaykhun in the war-torn country’s northern Idlib governorate. The Washington Post has more details:

The Pentagon is in the process of presenting options to the White House on potential military responses, which could include strikes on Syrian military targets and actions designed to ground the Syrian air force.

Some officials urged immediate action, warning against what one described as “paralysis through analysis.” But others were concerned about second- and third-order effects, including the response of Russia, which also has installed sophisticated air-defense systems in Syria

Speaking at a Thursday news conference from Palm Beach, Florida, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the US is considering the "appropriate response" to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, emphasizing that he see "no role" for Assad in shaping the country.

"The process by which Assad would leave is something that requires an international community effort both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country to avoid further civil war and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving," said Tillerson. "Assad’s role in the future is uncertain clearly, and with the acts that he has taken it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people."

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Nearly 80 people, including women and children, were killed by a nerve agent eyewitnesses claim “was dropped from warplanes,” according to the Guardian. In a statement on Thursday, the Turkish Health Ministry said preliminary tests had confirmed the toxic gas was likely sarin.

The production, stockpiling, and use of sarin gas was banned by international law under the 1997 UN Chemical Weapons Convention. In 2013, two rebel-controlled positions in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta were struck by sarin-filled rockets launched by government forces, killing nearly 281 people.

In the aftermath of the 2013 chemical attack, then-President Barack Obama asserted that Syria had crossed the “red line” and announced his intent to seek authorization for the use of American military forces to intervene in Syria, an intervention averted after the Syrian government agreed to a joint U.S.-Russian effort to destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.

The U.S. military has been active in Syria since, mainly leading the multinational coalition to beat back the spread of ISIS militants across the Middle East. And in recent months, the Trump administration has deployed the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, howitzers in tow, to bring the pain to the terrorist group.

But as gruesome images from Tuesday’s chemical attack crisscrossed the globe, Trump decried the attack as a “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” blaming his predecessor for not going far enough to bring the Syria’s bloody six-year civil war to a close.

"These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution," Trump said in a statement. "President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a 'red line' against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack."

According to Reuters, Mattis plans on presenting the options worked out in “detailed discussions” between the Pentagon and White House to Trump while he works from his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. Knowing the president, the nation will know what comes next for U.S. involvement in Syria sooner rather than later.

Americans' eroding trust in all forms of government has made it impossible to solve the most serious problems facing the United States today, former Defense Secretary James Mattis wrote in a recent article for The Atlantic.

The retired Marine Corps general laid out why the world's oldest democracy no longer seems to be able to reach a consensus on any issue, arguing that the underlying problem is politicians no longer debate: They just launch personal attacks against each other.

"We scorch our opponents with language that precludes compromise," Mattis wrote. "We brush aside the possibility that a person with whom we disagree might be right. We talk about what divides us and seldom acknowledge what unites us. Meanwhile, the docket of urgent national issues continues to grow—unaddressed and, under present circumstances, impossible to address."

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My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

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Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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An Army staff sergeant who "represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division" has finally received a Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge after a 75-year delay.

On Sunday, Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot was posthumously awarded with a Silver Star for his heroics while leading a machine gun team in the Ardennes Forest. The award, along with Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was presented to his only living relative, Sternot's first cousin, 80-year-old Delores Sternot.

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