Policy & Strategy

Think tank: US intervention in Syria could require 300K troops, cost $300 billion

A think tank report says that U.S. intervention in Syria involving
on-the-ground forces could require between 200,000 and 300,000 troops and
cost up to $300 billion per year to be executed properly.

While no one is advocating a strategy involving an invasion,
from the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy highlights the
difficulties of accomplishing the Obama administration’s goal of removing
Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

{mosads}The report lays out six ways that Assad’s ouster could
occur, but it doesn’t any of the options. They range from a diplomatic
solution — which the Obama administration supports — to a “Libya-like air
campaign that’s backed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), to a full-on invasion
that would require significant troop numbers.”

“At the end of the day, however, removing Assad may not be
doable at a price the United States is willing to pay,” the report states.
“Although the Obama administration has for months called for Assad to go, every
policy option to remove him is flawed, and some could even make the situation
worse — seemingly a recipe for inaction.”

The authors say they examined a U.S. invasion because if Washington
is determined to stop the slaughter of innocent civilians, “an invasion may
well be the only way to do so — it is certainly the only way that would be
guaranteed to do so.”

“An invasion and the early months of an occupation would
require 200,000 to 300,000 troops to be done properly,” they wrote. “That
alone should put the bill for a Syrian invasion at around $200 to $300 billion
per year for as long as that number of troops would have to remain.

“If the United States has learned the lessons of Iraq, those
troop numbers could be reduced fairly quickly, perhaps in a matter of months,
though lesser numbers of troops would have to remain for years,” the report

One alternative would be a NATO-led invasion of Syria,
ideally with participation from the Arab League, the authors write.

So far no one, including hawks like McCain, have called for
the U.S. military to put commit ground forces.

But unlike Libya, where NATO-led airstrikes helped topple
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the Brookings report says a similar campaign
would be much more difficult in Syria. That’s because Syria’s military is much
more capable and the opposition is more divided; a more urban terrain in
Syria also complicates matters.

The report says the Obama administration is currently
engaged in “coercive diplomacy,” using sanctions against Assad and providing
nonmilitary support to the opposition. The analysts write that while this
could prove successful, it could also lead to “a prolonged and bloody stalemate.”

A diplomatic solution, the report says, “rests on a key
assumption: that reversing Russia’s protection of the Assad regime in the
Security Council is actually possible.”

Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council
resolution last month that would have pushed for Assad to relinquish power.

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