DOD extends Navy deployments in Mediterranean

U.S. military leaders have extended the deployments of two American warships in the coastal waters near Syria, as the Pentagon awaits word from the White House to begin military strikes in the country. 

The USS Barry, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer armed with long-range Tomahawk missiles, will remain in the Mediterranean for two additional weeks, Pentagon press secretary George Little said Thursday. 

The warship is one of four Navy Destroyers that have been stationed off the Syrian coastline since late August. The Barry was initially scheduled to return to home port last month. 

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Along with the USS Barry, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier will also remain on station in the Red Sea should administration officials give the green light to begin targeted strikes against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

The extensions, according to Little, are part of the Defense Department's efforts to "maintain a strong military posture" in the region. 

American naval forces in the Mediterranean and Red Sea "stand ready for any military action" ordered by the White House on Syria. 

President Obama was poised to order military strikes against Assad's forces in retaliation for alleged chemical weapons attacks against anti-government rebels in the country. 

Use of those weapons crossed a so-called "red line" that administration officials said would trigger an armed response. 

However, Obama delayed those strikes in order to gain congressional authorization for any military action in Syria. 

Lawmakers were preparing to vote on a Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution to begin the strikes, but that vote was delayed after an eleventh-hour proposal by Russia to end the U.S. standoff in Syria. 

Administration officials are vetting the Russian plan, which would force Assad to give up control of his chemical weapons stocks to the United Nations. 

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Geneva on Thursday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss details of the plan. 

Despite those ongoing diplomatic efforts, Little said the Pentagon is not considering standing down American forces in the region. 

"We need to see how the Geneva discussions proceed" before any withdrawal plans can be considered, he added.