A much more detailed, interactive map on targeting is at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/syria-military-map/
Its all over the media so it can be said:
It seems part of US strategy is to destroy or disable Syrian armed forces' weapons that are capable of projecting CWs. That includes missile launchers, artillery and aircraft (jets, prop-driven and helicopters). Also disabling airfields and air defences (inc S-300s).
Obama may not get sufficient political support to consider using Special Forces as this would constitute "boots on the ground".
There are a whole raft of dangers that may come into play after US-French strikes, including:
- Syrian civilian deaths caused by the strikes
- international and home-grown terrorist reactions (see "US tells embassy staff in Beirut to leave over 'potential threats', Syria tensions" of September 7, 2013)
- Assad or Hezbollah shelling or missiles aimed at Israel, Turkey and Jordan,
- Syrian use of anti-shipping missiles against tankers which would cause a large spike in world oil prices.
For those who follow high-tech weapons the following are some of the US and French weapons that may be involved in strikes against Syria. Most of the details are from ABC Australia's report of August 30, 2013 at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-30/what-strikes-on-syria-might-involve/4923824 :
Guided missile destroyersThe US currently has five guided missile destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea - the USS Gravely, the USS Barry, the USS Ramage, the USS Mahan and the USS Stout. Each ship can carry a maximum of 90-96 Tomahawk cruise missiles if loaded only with those weapons. The actual number they are carrying at any time depends on the mission and what other weapons and systems are needed.
Cruise missiles are likely to be the weapon of choice if Obama orders a strike because they don't expose a pilot to danger. Cruise missile have a range of about 1,610 kilometres hence can be used at a distance at which the destroyers are assumed safe from Syrian retaliation. Cruise missiles are ideal for action against Syria's integrated air defences.
The US usually has three destroyers in the region. The Mahan was due to rotate back home but was told to remain on station last Friday. The Stout has just arrived in the region to replace one of the other destroyers that was about to depart, the Navy said.
SubmarinesThe US has 58 nuclear propelled submarines capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles. This includes four designated guided missile submarines (modified Ohio Class) capable of carrying up to 154 cruise missiles apiece. The Navy does not discuss the whereabouts of its submarines, but one or more could be tapped for duty if Obama decides to carry out targeted strikes against Syria.
AircraftUS F-22s, F-18s, F-16s, F-15s fighter-bombers and B-2 stealth bombers, (less likely to be used are B-1and B-52 bombers) are capable of carrying conventional air-launched cruise missiles, faster rocket powered missiles and precision guided bombs.
Those could be called into play if needed, as they have been in previous conflicts in the Middle East, flying from bases in the US or bases elsewhere with F-18s off carriers. The air-launched cruise missiles also are stand-off weapons that could be dropped from outside Syrian territory.
Over-flight of countries neighbouring Syria is a consideration.
Aircraft carriersThe USS Harry S. Truman is currently in the northern Arabian Sea and the USS Nimitz is in the Indian Ocean. Aircraft from the two carriers could be called into service if needed to participate in an attack. But their participation appears unlikely. US officials have indicated any strikes against Syria are likely to be limited in scope.
Use of aircraft from the carriers would probably require a broader operation involving a US effort to destroy Syria's integrated air defences before sending planes over the country. The Nimitz has been supporting US operations in Afghanistan and is due to be replaced by the Truman, which is crossing the Arabian Sea to relieve the Nimitz so it can return home.
Amphibious assault shipThe USS Kearsarge recently ended a port call in the Gulf and is headed back out to sea. The vessel has a contingent of Marines but is not considered likely to participate in limited operations like the ones Obama is reported to be considering.
Additional aircraft at bases in the regionThe US has additional aircraft at different bases in the region, in places like the UK, Italy, Cyprus and Turkey, that could support an operation against Syria if needed. But that is not seen as likely because it would require a much larger effort to remove the threat of Syria's air defences.
France also has cruise missile capable surface ships, the carrier Charles de Gaulle, submarines and fast jets .