by Ellen Mitchell · April 14, 2018
Pentagon officials on Saturday claimed that U.S. and western airstrikes on Syria the previous night “successfully hit every target” as President Trump declared “mission accomplished” in retaliating over the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria.
“Last night’s operations were successful. We met all of our objectives, we hit all of our targets successfully. No allied aircrafts were engaged. It was a successful mission,” Defense Department chief spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Pentagon.
The United States joined French and British forces on Friday night in launching 105 missiles from numerous air and naval locations at three different targets in Syria, including facilities near the capital of Damascus as well as in Homs in northern Syria.
The strike was an to attempt to take out vital chemical weapons facilities run by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and was meant as retaliation for an apparent chemical attack in a Damascus suburb last weekend that killed dozens of civilians.
“The strikes went to the very heart of the enterprise, to research to the development, to storage. So we are very confident that we have significantly crippled Assad’s ability to produce these weapons,” White said.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the director of the Joint Staff who spoke alongside White, called the strikes “precise, overwhelming and effective” in deterring Assad from further use of chemical weapons.
He also gave more details on the equipment and missiles used to carry out the strike.
The United States hit the first target, the Barzah Research and Development Center, with 76 missiles, including 57 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and 19 joint air-to-surface standoff missiles.
McKenzie said the target — a military research center for chemical and biological warfare technology located in the greater Damascus area — was destroyed, citing initial assessments.
“This is going to set the Syrian chemical weapons program back for years,” he said.
The U.S. and its allies also fired 22 missiles at the Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage site — the primary location of Syria’s sarin gas — and seven missiles at the Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker. Both locations are near Homs, roughly 100 miles north of Damascus.
The strikes were delivered from British, French and U.S. air and naval platforms in the Red Sea, the northern Arabian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The U.S. used the USS Monterey Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers the USS Laboon and USS Higgins and the USS John Warner Virginia-class submarine to fire all Tomahawk missiles.
The U.S. also used two B-1 Lancer bombers to fire 19 joint air-to-surface standoff missiles.
“All weapons hit their targets at very close to the designated time on target of about 4 a.m. in Syria,” McKenzie added. “These attacks on multiple axis were able to overwhelm the Syrian air defense system.”
In addition, the U.S.-led mission “flew a variety of defensive counter air, tanker and electronic warfare aircraft in support of these operations.”
While the Syrian government employed 40 surface-to-air-missiles in response, “none of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses,” McKenzie said.
“As of right now, we are not aware of any civilian casualties,” he added, but acknowledged that the defense launched by the Syrians may have led to unaccounted deaths.
The Pentagon also has no indication that Russian air defense systems were used to deter the strike, but McKenzie said “we’re ready for it. We’re postured both in the region and globally. We’re on the balls of our feet and we’re ready for anything.”
Trump on Saturday morning touted the mission as a success.
“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!” Trump tweeted.
White also stressed that the U.S. mission in Syria remains defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but said the U.S. will not stand by while Assad attacks “innocent Syrian people.”
“Our focus remains defeating ISIS. It is not to get involved in the Syrian civil war,” she said.
The Friday strike was the second such bombardment the Trump administration has authorized in Syria in roughly a year.
Last April the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles from warships at a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed 80 civilians.
The Hill · by Ellen Mitchell · April 14, 2018