Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday suggested that the Obama administration would not rule out the possibility that American troops would have to used as a consequence of any potential congressionally authorized military action against Syrian government targets in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged chemical weapons use late last month. But Kerry clarified that the administration would welcome a provision prohibiting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria as part of a war authorization resolution.
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ, the committee’s chairman, asked Kerry if “a prohibition for having American boots on the ground is that something that the administration would accept as part of a resolution.”
“It would be preferable not to, not because there’s any intention or any desire whatsoever to put boots on the ground,” Kerry replied. But he laid out a scenario in which U.S. troops might need to intervene inside Syria:
KERRY: I think the president will give you every assurance in the world as am I, as is the Secretary of Defense and the chairman, but in the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else and it was clearly in the interests of our allies and all of us, the British, the French and others, to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements, I don’t want to take off the table, an option, that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country.
In making the case for military action in Syria, Obama administration officials have said it does not have any plans to introduce American troops into the conflict. President Obama said as much in his speech on Syria this Saturday.
“In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve,” he said. “And that’s why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.”
During the hearing on Tuesday, Menendez tried to clarify whether troops would be used for combat purposes. “Assuming that in the going to protect those weapons, whether or not they had to answer a shot in order to be secure, I don’t want to speak to that,” Kerry said. But the nation’s top diplomat then steered back to the administration’s pledge to not put U.S. troops in Syria.
“The bottom line is that the president has no intention, we do not want to put American troops on the ground to be involved in the fighting of this civil war,” Kerry said, later clarifying further that “[t]here is no problem in our having the language that has zero capacity” for U.S. troops in Syria.