The Pentagon is moving forces into place in case President Barack Obama opts for military action against Syria, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested on Friday.
Amid calls for military intervention after the Syrian regime carried out an alleged chemical weapons attack this week, US commanders have prepared a range of “options” for Obama if he chooses to launch an attack on the Damascus regime, Hagel told reporters aboard his plane en route to Malaysia.
But he declined to provide any details on the positioning of US troops and assets.
“The Defence Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” Hagel said.
US media reported warships had been sent to the region for possible cruise missile attacks or other action but Hagel declined to comment on the accounts.
US newspapers also have suggested disagreements within the administration over the risks of another American military intervention in the Middle East.
“The president has asked the Defence Department for options. Like always, the Defence 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 and other defence officials made clear no decision had been taken on whether to employ military force against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Hagel, who visited US Marines in Hawaii on Thursday before setting off on a week-long tour of Southeast Asia, said he expected American intelligence agencies to “swiftly” assess whether the Syrian government indeed used chemical weapons.
He said the US government would work closely with its allies.
“The international community should and will act in concert on these kinds of issues,” Hagel said.