Syrian WMD problem could require 75,000 troops

A military strike to secure or destroy Syria's weapons of mass destruction could require airstrikes, special operations teams and as many as 75,000 ground troops, according to an international affairs and strategy analyst.

Daniel Trombly, a writer on international affairs, said that if the United States or other countries need to destroy the Syrian chemical weapon stockpile, the mission would be a particularly complicated affair, the U.S. Naval Institute reports.

Syria contains approximately 50 chemical weapon storage or manufacturing sites. The sites are thought to include an arsenal of V and G-series nerve agents, including VX, sarin and tabun. The stockpile of the chemical agents may include several hundreds tons of chemical agents.

The nation also contains more than 3,400 artillery pieces, many of which can fire chemically armed rockets or shells. Destroying all of the weapons and stockpiles could require an extended naval and aerial strike campaign.

There are also many risks of effectively servicing WMD targets, including bringing the weapons through heavily populated areas. Several of the largest stockpiles are located near urban centers and if destroyed could cause civilian casualties, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.

As a result of the many dangers, securing the weapons with a large number of troops could make the most sense. Trombly said, however, there are consequences to that decision as well.

"Thus, the early estimates of 75,000 troops (along with, presumably, the establishment of air superiority and the execution of close-air support missions) participating in an effort to secure and render safe Syrian WMD are not unreasonable, though given the logistical constraints, any deployment would likely be under-resourced relative to the Pentagon's preferences," Trombly said, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. "Though nonproliferation and deterring WMD use seems a simpler undertaking than protecting safe zones or overthrowing the Syrian government, it might also be the easiest way into a significant and open-ended Western presence in Syria, during and after its internal conflict."