Dempsey: Stopping Syria from chemical attack almost unachievable

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey expressed doubt on Thursday that the U.S. can stop the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons.

During a press conference at the Pentagon, Dempsey said that if Bashar al-Assad decides to use his chemical weapon stockpiles, it is likely the U.S. will not be able to do a thing about it. In addition, the U.S. is unlikely to step into a hostile environment to keep the chemicals under control, Wired reports.

While Assad has yet to use the weapons, Dempsey conceded that if al-Assad changed his mind, the U.S. might not know about the attack until it was too late.

"The act of preventing the use of chemical weapons would be almost unachievable," Dempsey said, according to Wired. "You would have to have such clarity of intelligence, persistent surveillance, you'd have to actually see it before it happened. And that's unlikely, to be sure."

The Obama administration previously said that if Syria uses chemical weapons it would cross a red line. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that sending U.S. troops into Syria to secure the chemical weapons would not serve as part of the response.

"We're not working on options that involve boots on the ground," Panetta said, according to Wired. "In a hostile situation, we're not planning for that."

To secure the estimated 500 tons of chemical precursors, military officials estimate that it would require 75,000 troops.

The Syrian revolution has claimed the lives of at least 60,000 Syrians thus far, Wired reports.