Saturday, August 24, 2013

Casting a Giant Shadow

When it has been said that we'd need 75,000 troops to secure Syrian chemical weapons facilities (factories, storage, and missile sites) in the face of Syrian opposition, the implication that 1,000 paratroopers are training to deal with Syria is ridiculous.

Leading off with reports of Syrian chemical weapons use, this story discusses the 82nd Airborne Division's preparations to assault a chemical weapons storage facility as if this might be used in Syria:

In a suburb east of Damascus, Syria, there is new fighting where an alleged chemical weapons attack happened on Wednesday. Syria's opposition says hundreds of civilians died from exposure to toxic gas. The Assad regime denies those claims. The White House is calling for an investigation by United Nations inspectors that are already inside Syria. ...

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is getting ready to seize chemical weapons, anywhere in the world. CBS News' David Martin went on a training mission with the famous Army unit, the 82nd Airborne. ...

The 82nd Airborne is kept on constant alert, ready to load and launch 1,000 paratroopers and their gear within 18 hours to anywhere in the world. In the exercise CBS News observed, they jumped from 800 feet to seize two dirt air strips in the woods of North Carolina. Frenzel said, "One airfield is challenging by any measure. Two airfields, simultaneously, creates incredible command and control challenges."

One, we wouldn't drop them in Syria before a very thorough campaign to destroy Syria's air force and air defenses.

Two, if seizing two objectives at once is difficult, what would they do in Syria?

Three, this is just a thousand-man paratrooper unit. I assume a ready battalion from the ready brigade of the entire division which is not ready to go on 18 hours notice.

So this unit's preparations are useful not to keep Assad's chemical weapons arsenal from scattering, but to hit a single stockpile of the weapons that might get in the hands of some terrorists after it scatters out of Assad's control.

Which is a useful capability. Don't get me wrong. Although I'd have expected this to be something our Ranger regiment would practice.

But there is no way in Hades that this is a capability that we plan to use in Syria, except as a small part of a larger effort that advances overland from Turkey and Jordan.