The Pentagon could be moving forces into place ahead of possible military action against Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested on Friday, following mounting international concern over alleged chemical warfare in the crisis-torn country.
En route to Malaysia, Hagel told reporters the U.S. was positioning naval forces and assets in anticipation of any decision by President Barack Obama to order military action on Syria.
“The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” Hagel said, according to comments carried by AFP news agency.
“And that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets to be able to carry out different options -- whatever the president might choose.”
Hagel however declined to provide any details on the positioning of U.S. ships, aircraft or troops, as the Obama administration reportedly contemplated cruise missile strikes against Assad’s forces.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy will expand its presence in the Mediterranean with a fourth cruise-missile armed warship because of the escalating civil war in Syria, a defense official told AFP on Friday.
The USS Mahan had finished its deployment and was due to head back to its home base in Norfolk, Virginia, but the commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet has decided to keep the ship in the region, the defense official said.
Obama has said Washington must be wary of costly and difficult foreign interventions.
“The president has asked the Defense Department for options. Like always, the Defense Department is prepared and has been prepared to provide all options for all contingencies to the president of the United States,” Hagel said.
The Pentagon chief made clear that no decision had been taken on whether to employ military force as the more than two-year-old conflict rages on.