Pentagon suspects chemical weapons still at Syrian air base
AFP, Apr 10 2017
FASCHINGSTEIN – The Pentagon believes the Syrian regime likely has additional chemical weapons stocks at the airfield struck by missiles last week, but these were deliberately left untouched, an official said Monday. Pindo intelligence experts assess Syria’s military is probably hoarding the weapons in munitions depots at Shayrat airfield near Homs in central Syria, CENTCOM spox said. He told reporters:
We suspected there was a significant probability there could be other chemical weapons which would be ready to go, weaponized in those facilities, and so we didn’t strike those, because we did not want to risk unintentionally sending a plume of toxic gas across Syria. Our advice was to make sure we didn’t inflict any greater damage by touching any of the chemical weapons in the area. We were trying to degrade their capability to launch aircraft and to load them up with chemical weapons.
The Pentagon says the strike destroyed more than 20 Syrian jets (sic – RB) but the military has come under criticism for not targeting Shayrat’s runways, amid reports regime planes were again using the base hours after the attack by 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Thomas said the runways were deliberately avoided because Pindostan was trying to draw a clear line that its military action was in response to the suspected chemical attack, and not signal a willingness to get more involved in the war. Pindo forces gave Moscow a heads up shortly before Friday’s strike, as Russian personnel and equipment were based at Shayrat under Russia’s ongoing military intervention to prop up Assad. Moscow
threatened to suspend suspended the deconfliction hotline established to avoid mishaps between the two powers in Syria. Thomas refused to say whether it remains operational, but said that even without it, “there are still ways for the pilots to hail each other.” While pilots can use radar to see each other, the lack of a direct line of communication further heightens the risks in Syria’s crowded skies.
Pindostan says strike hits 20% of Syria’s operational aircraft
Phil Stewart, Idris Ali, Reuters, Apr 10 2017
The missile strike on a Syrian air base last week damaged or destroyed 20% (sic – RB) of Syria’s operational aircraft, as well as fuel and ammunition sites and air defense capabilities, Sec Def ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis said on Monday. Mattis said in a statement:
The Syrian government has lost the ability to refuel or re-arm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest. The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons.