Followed by a “Story was corrected at 2:22pm to accurately reflect comments made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey,” The Hill now has a different version of Gen. Dempsey’s remarks.
The story now titled, “Pentagon planning for Syria on hold, pending White House decision,” offers the following version:
“I can’t do that,” the four-star general said Thursday, when asked what it would take, militarily, to stop the killing of innocent civilians in Syria by forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“The military typically takes the information presented and an outcome. I have to know what the outcome is. So you tell me what the outcome is, I can build you a plan to achieve that outcome,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.
“Anything at this point vis-a-vis Syria would be hypothetical in the extreme, and I can’t build that plan unless I understand the outcome,” the four-star general said.
The Hill then digs up comments made by Dempsey before Congress back in March:
That said, the closest [the] Pentagon has come to any military planning for Syria is providing a “commanders’ estimate level of detail,” Dempsey told Congress in March.
That effort did not consist of “detailed planning” and has not been briefed to the President, the four-star general said at the time. “The next step would be to take whatever options we deem to be feasible into the next level of planning,” the four-star general added.
Finally, The Hill quotes Dempsey’s spokesman, Col. David Lapan, as saying today:
Gen. Dempsey has testified before Congress, and reiterated in several interviews, that our military role is to conduct planning and provide options to the Secretary of Defense and President when requested…Until we are given specific direction to plan for particular scenarios [in Syria], we don’t conduct additional detailed planning.
As mentioned previously, the Department of Defense has not (yet) corroborated — nor offered any comments — on the original The Hill story.
When DoD does so, it will be posted here.
It should be noted that the link to the “corrected” story still reads “http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/operations/231623-dempsey-white-houses-muddled-syria-policy-hindering-military-plans-“
While the carnage and atrocities continue to mount in Syria, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff claims that the administration’s policy of pursuing diplomatic solutions in Syria while vaguely maintaining the option for military response has put Pentagon planners in a strategic bind, according to The Hill:
In what could be called a highly unusual criticism by the top U.S. military officer, The Hill reports that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, told reporters Thursday that efforts to draft a military option for Syria have been stymied by the White House’s seeming lack of focus on what it wants to achieve in the country.
“Tell me that following that regime change [in Syria] you want me to restore order, do nation building [or] stability operations and I know what that looks like,” Dempsey said during a briefing at the Pentagon.
With that kind of information, “I can build you a plan, and I know how many divisions, I know how many air wings … it takes,” he added.
But the four-star general said the Pentagon is not getting that kind of clear-cut direction from the White House, and that is affecting how department officials prepare for whatever contingency may arise in Syria.
“I have to know what the outcome is. You tell me what the outcome is, I can build you a plan to achieve that outcome,” Dempsey said. “I can’t build that plan unless I understand the outcome.”
Dempsey “acknowledged White House efforts to oust Assad via diplomatic means ‘is moving at a pace that is slower than we [or] anyone would want,’” and added, “The pressures that are being brought to bear [against Assad] are simply not having the effect I think that we intend.”
However, The Hill continues, “ the general was adamant that neither he or the Pentagon were ready to forgo diplomatic efforts and focus squarely on military action to remove Assad. “I’m not prepared to advocate that we abandon that track at this point,” he said.
DoD sources have not corroborated this report.
Some military images in the news:
A formation of C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft fly in formation as they return from the Samurai Surge training mission near Mount Fuji, Japan, June 5, 2012. At 12,388 feet, Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chad C. Strohmeyer)
During Joint Operations Access Exercise, C-17 Globemaster IIIs drop heavy equipment supplies for an airlift mission on Fort Bragg, N.C., June 4, 2012. A joint operations exercise is a two-week exercise to prepare Air Force and Army service members to respond to worldwide crises and contingencies. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) at sea. Wyoming surfaced to accept Midshipmen for professional training and to conduct a proof of concept for personnel evacacuation from a submarine witha V-22 Osprey. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.