Military planners at the Pentagon and White House are avoiding specifically targeting suspected caches of chemical weapons stockpiles, fearing that strikes would release the deadly contents of those stockpiles into nearby towns and villages.
Long-range missile and artillery sites believed to have launched the chemical weapons into rebel-held areas around Damascus have also been targeted for U.S. strikes, the Times reports.
Other targets include key command and control stations, Syrian military airbases and several "conventional military targets," a U.S. defense official told the newspaper on Tuesday.
If successful, the U.S. strikes could cripple the Syrian military's ability to carry out attacks on rebel forces and bring the regime to its knees.
The plan of attack being developed by the Obama White House seemingly runs counter to claims that proposes U.S. military action is not aimed at deposing Assad.
"The options we are considering are not about regime change," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.
"That is not what we are contemplating here," he told reporters at the White House.
While the United States has repeatedly said that Assad would and must fall from power, the Obama administration has also said that transition needs to come internally.
"We have stated it for a long time, that there is no military solution available here, that the way to bring about a better future in Syria is through negotiation and a political resolution."
Carney's comments come as British forces have begun to move combat aircraft to the U.K.'s main airfield in Cyprus, 100 miles off the Syrian coast.
The combat aircraft heading toward the Akrotiri air base will join the four American Arleigh Burke-class destroyers already patrolling the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean.
U.S. and allied military leaders are reportedly preparing for a three-day mission of surgical strikes against targets inside Syria.
U.S. officials told NBC the strikes would be limited in scope and strictly in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons against rebel forces by Assad's troops.
Administration officials said over the weekend they have “little doubt” that Assad's forces used poison gas.
According to opposition groups, the death toll from the attack stands at more than 1,000.
Use of chemical weapons crosses "red line" set by the Obama administration, which would trigger a U.S. military response.