Seizing chemical arms from Syria could require 75,000 or more troops
The number, which shocked top officials in the administration, is high in part because the militant group Hezbollah may have set up training camps near some of the chemical weapons depots. Officials are concerned that if the conflict in Syria continues to get out of control, the country's stockpiles of chemical weapons could get into the wrong hands, the New York Times reports.
American officials are also concerned that Bashar al-Assad's regime may consider using the weapons themselves as Syria continues to import missile technology despite sanctions to prevent such an action.
Another reason the number of troops required is so high is for contingency planning to neutralize the chemical weapons without contaminating nearby Syrian towns.
"The problem is that you can't just pick this stuff up and ship it out of the country," one senior military official said, according to the New York Times.
Many containers holding chemical material are thought to be old or unreliable with a high risk of leakage. As a result, much of the stockpiles might need to be destroyed in place. When the U.S. destroyed its own stockpiles, the process took years.
"There are several options," a second official said, according to the New York Times. "But all carry varying degrees of risk."
The CIA estimates that approximately three dozen chemical stockpile sites exist in Syria. The military estimates figures in the high 40s, the New York Times reports.