Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a letter to a congressman that the Obama administration is opposed to getting involved militarily in the conflict in Syria because he believes the Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces do not share American interests.
In an Aug. 19 letter to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey, according to the Associated Press`, said the U.S. has the capability to defeat Assad’s air force and shift the tide of the war in the rebels favor, but the issue is what the rebels would do when they win.
“Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides,” Dempsey said. “It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.”
“It is a deeply rooted, long-term conflict among multiple factions, and violent struggles for power will continue after Assad’s rule ends,” he wrote. “We should evaluate the effectiveness of limited military options in this context.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that “[a]nti-government activists accused the Syrian government of pounding areas east of Damascus, the capital, with rockets carrying poison gas early Wednesday, saying that people had been killed in their sleep and that local hospitals were filled with casualties.”
In other news:
The Wall Street Journal reports: The White House is poised to cancel a shipment of U.S.-made attack helicopters to Egypt, but the Obama administration remains opposed to a wholesale halt of military aid to the country, according to U.S. officials.
The New York Times reports: The money seems like a pittance for Egypt, which has a $256 billion economy. But the $1.3 billion in military aid that the United States gives the country every year is its main access to the kind of big-ticket, sophisticated weaponry that the Egyptian military loves.
Agence France Presse reports: The US Air Force is unable to keep up with a growing demand for pilots capable of operating drones, partly due to a shortage of volunteers, according to a new study.
USA Today reports: The good news on the IED front in Afghanistan is that it’s no longer a huge story. Attacks from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) dropped 19% for the three-month period that ended on July 31. And U.S. troops continue to find and defuse bombs better than ever. Soldiers and Marines on foot patrol now find 85% of makeshift bombs compared with 80% last year. The bad news? Roadside bombs remain the top threat to U.S. troops, causing 61% of all casualties. It’s worse for Afghan security forces, who have seen attacks on them increase 74%. That compares with the same period in 2012. Stats come courtesy of the Joint IED Defeat Organization.