The letter by Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, contained an unclassified assessment of the options for using US military force in the Syrian conflict. He indicated the administration was still deliberating what steps it should take in response to the civil war.
Dempsey outlined five options he said that the US military was prepared to undertake, training and advising the opposition, conducting limited stand-off strikes, establishing a no-fly zone, establishing buffer zones and controlling chemical arms.
The letter was a response to questions posed by two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week following a confrontational hearing called to consider Dempsey's nomination to a second two-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
The letter was released by Senator Carl Levin, the panel's Democratic chairman, who along with Republican Senator John McCain had questioned Dempsey about his views.
After last week's hearing, McCain threatened to delay Dempsey's nomination until he responded to questions on Syria. McCain's spokesman was not immediately available to comment on whether Dempsey's reply had eased the senator's concerns.
While the different options have been discussed in the past, Dempsey's letter was the fullest public summary of how the military might help Syrian rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as potential risks and costs.
"All of these options would likely further the narrow military objective of helping the opposition and placing more pressure on the regime," Dempsey said in the letter.
"We have learned from the past 10 years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state. We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action," he said.
US military's current role in the conflict is limited to delivering humanitarian aid, providing security assistance to Syria's neighbors and providing nonlethal help to the Syrian opposition. US military has an operational headquarters unit in Jordan along with other assets, including F-16 jets.


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