An F-15C Eagle receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 14, 2018 during U.S. military strikes in Syria.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Cooper

Questions raised about Syrian target sites

April 19, 2018 - 6:29 pm

ARLINGTON, Va.-- Thursday's Pentagon Press Briefing raised questions about the chemical weapons at the targeted sites in Syria from last week's strike.

An hour after the April 13 strike, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that by hitting the Barzah Research and Development center, one of the sites, “we’ve attacked the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons program.”

McKenzie acknowledged Thursday,, during the briefing, that the Syria regime still has the ability to launch limited chemical weapons attacks on its own people.

“However, as they contemplate the dynamics of conducting those attacks, they’ve got to look over their shoulder and be worried that we’re looking at them and we’ll have the ability to strike them again should it be necessary,” he said.

When asked what chemical weapons were at the site, McKenzie replied, “We believe that there was probably some chlorine and possibly sarin at possibly all of the sites.”

“As you know we don’t have access to that site, so it’s hard to go in and do that post-strike analysis except from a distance and with overhead imagery,” he added. “So that’s probably going to be an open question for a little bit of time, although we continue to look at those sites very closely through a variety of means.”

Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White stated at Thursday’s briefing that “Our strikes last Friday were successful in degrading Syria’s chemical weapons research and storage facilities, without a single report of a civilian casualty.”

“This is a testament to the professionalism and precision of the US, UK and French forces that carried out this mission,” she said.

When asked about the presence of Sarin at the sites, McKenzie replied that they believe there probably was and “we’re able to reduce that the possibility of that escaping to a very low level,” through several means including modeling.

“And we know empirically, in fact, none did escape just based on the fact there were no casualties around it,” he said.

Hearing that no casualties were reported put into question the presence of chemical weapons at the sites, to which McKenzie responded, “Based on all source intelligence, we assessed there were some chemical weapons at those sites.”

“None escaped that we can see, but certainly we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that that’s the case,” he added. “But we believe the absolute preponderance of the evidence is, that there were chemical weapons at that site, to include elements of sarin particularly at the Barzah site.”