In order to achieve a safe zone in Syria, approximately 30,000 ground troops will be needed.
Although a ceasefire is planned for this coming Saturday, there are growing calls within Washington for a so-called “Plan-B”: options for military action if the truce fails. Many Republicans, including Donald Trump, are calling for a “safe zone” in northern Syria to protect the increasing number of displaced people.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that creating a safe zone isn’t as simple as it sounds. In addition to controlling the airspace, Kerry said, a large troop presence would be required to shield the population from ISIS attacks on the ground.
Aside from the inherent physical and political risks of putting a large number of U.S. troops on the ground inside Syria, the U.S. worries about potential conflicts with Russia, which is also conducting an aerial bombing campaign over Syria. Creating a no-fly zone would most likely mean the U.S. would have to enforce that rule against Russian jets — a potentially dangerous scenario.
Nevertheless, Kerry said that the U.S. is considering other options if a ceasefire can’t be reached inside Syria.
Yesterday during testimony in front Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Kerry said it will be two or three months before the U.S. will know if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia are serious about a political transition process. If they’re not, he said, “‘Plan B’ options are being considered.”
Facing backlash from Senate Republicans who suggested President Obama has been unwilling to act in the past, Kerry said it would be a “mistake” for anyone to think the president won’t act this time around. “He has a record of making tough decisions,” Kerry said.
Officials say that other options being discussed should the ceasefire fail is increasing America’s covert support for the Syrian opposition groups. Officials insist that these are only discussions and no real “Plan B” is cemented.