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Pentagon ready to strike Syria when Obama orders

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Anticipating a military strike against Syria, the Pentagon has deployed a series of naval assets, including four destroyers and one amphibious ship in the Middle East, to accomplish a "robust and agile" attack.

The deployment came after US President Barack Obama last week announced his decision to go for a military strike against Syria to hold the Assad regime accountable for allegedly using chemical weapons that killed more than 1,400 people. Obama is seeking authorisation from the Congress, which has begun deliberations on the issue and is expected to vote on it early next week.

A Pentagon official said that four destroyers and one amphibious ship remain in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The preparations for the military strike is mainly restricted to moving warships towards the region, he said.

The ships of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (Nimitz, Princeton, William P Lawrence, Stockdale, and Shoup) are currently operating in the Southern Red Sea.

"There has been no formal tasking -- this is a prudent movement of forces should the capabilities of the strike group be needed," the defence department official said.

"While we will not discuss the details of our targeting and other preparations for military action, you can be certain of our ability to adjust and adapt to actions by the Syrian government," the official said.

"Our planning has been both robust and agile, and we continue to refine it. We will be able to accomplish the objectives of any military action now, a week from now, or whenever the President directs us to execute," the official added.

A day earlier Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the military objective is to hold the Assad regime accountable for use of chemical weapons.

"The President has made clear that our military objectives in Syria would be to hold the Assad regime accountable, degrade its ability to carry out these kinds of attacks, and deter the regime from further use of chemical weapons," he said.

"The Department of Defence has developed military options to achieve these objectives, and we have positioned US assets throughout the region to successfully execute this mission. We believe we can achieve them with a military action that would be limited in duration and scope," he asserted.

Hagel said that he and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have assured the US President that American forces will be ready to act whenever he gives the order.

"We are also working with our allies and our partners in this effort," Hagel said.

First Published: Thu, September 05 2013. 21:56 IST