Recent accusations by a federal inspector general that additional oversight was urgently needed for foreign aid flowing into Afghanistan did not sit well with officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID officials argue they're on the same page with John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), when it comes to oversight concerns.
In his April quarterly report to Congress, Sopko's office frequently praises USAID's oversight efforts. But they also note examples of past or potential future misuse of taxpayer funds, such as USAID providing $179 million in funds for the 2014 elections, even though no new Afghan election laws have passed to thwart fraud. One SIGAR audit found USAID approved plans for two hospitals that could cost $18 million without ensuring future funding or that Afghans could sustain them with staffing.
In a speech this week, Sopko offered another example, arguing the Afghan electric company was not as capable as USAID had claimed. "SIGAR's audit work says otherwise," he argued.
It may be a case of dueling perspectives between a watchdog looking for imperfections and a government agency tasked specifically with sending money into some of the most imperfectly governed places on earth.
USAID spokesman Ben Edwards emailed this statement from USAID, in response to Sopko:
"USAID has a stellar record of protecting U.S. tax dollars in Afghanistan. We have 12 years of experience implementing programs and delivering results. USAID is committed to ensuring accountability for all taxpayer funded projects. Before giving any on-budget [direct] assistance to the Afghan government, USAID assesses the capacity of the ministries involved to properly budget for and carry out the proposed projects. USAID utilizes robust financial controls to monitor taxpayer funds and expected outcomes.
Indeed, Afghanistan has made dramatic development progress over the past decade, which would not be possible without the help of U.S. taxpayer funding designed to improve the government's capacity to manage its own development and deliver goods and services to the Afghan people. For example, assistance to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health has dramatically expanded access to health care-resulting in an unprecedented increase in Afghan life expectancy of 15-20 years in a decade.
The U.S. development mission in Afghanistan is not without challenges, but is necessary in order to ensure Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists from which to attack the United States."
Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/GettyImages
More than 11 years since September 11, 2001, the Afghanistan war continues, the prison at Guantanamo stands, and mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad is still awaiting trial. But today, the spire was attached atop One World Trade. The skyline of lower Manhattan finally has the landmark towering skyscraper it deserves.
But two would've been nice.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
It seems everyone these days is clawing for a bigger piece of the Pentagon's shrinking budget pie and special operations forces (SOF) are elbowing their way to the trough.
But even elite forces need help fighting Beltway budget wars and winning battle space in the coming Quadrennial Defense Review -- the good book that informs (or at least gives cover fire) to all Pentagon spending. On Friday, Adm. Bill McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), who has called for expanding a "global SOF network," just acquired a major ally in the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
The watchdog released on Friday a 125-page report, "Beyond the Ramparts: The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces" outlining how special operations forces should use the post-war era to expand and solidify a global network with more forward basing, more personnel, more "stealthy" and appropriately SOF-like equipment, more foreign headquarters and training centers, and ... well, more of everything.
"Returning SOF to their pre-9/11 roles would undoubtedly squander what has been gained over the past decade and forfeit a major U.S. competitive advantage," writes CSBA Vice President Jim Thomas and Chris Dougherty, research fellow and 75th Ranger Regiment veteran.
CSBA tries to wrap its hands around how to expand SOF forces around the globe in an era where they also predict more restrictive rules of engagement (outside of the "hot" war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq), smaller bases, and yet far more available conventional "enabler" forces to support their missions as those wars wind down.
To get started, elite U.S. forces will need language training and more diversity. Thomas suggested sending troops abroad with "things like Rosetta Stone" books, which allow them to train and test remotely. The face of elite troops, he added, is overwhelmingly white and male, and so does not tap into America's ethnic diversity, which he called "one of the greatest strategic strengths of the United States."
It will take money. Thomas's final slide shows a tiny sliver emerging from a pie chart: it's SOF's current share of DOD's more than $600 billion budget.
But there are other reason SOF is an affordable must-have, they argued.
"We're moving toward more austere basing. The main operating bases, the Baghram's, the Balad's, and other places, we think this is largely going to be a thing of the past," said co-author Jim Thomas.
Among the recommendations: strengthening SOF commands within the regional combatant commands by adding more manning; and transferring or permitting more operational control of SOF forces from SOCOM to the regional combatant commanders.
"This has been an area that has really been neglected in the past 20 years," Thomas said. "That's starting to change now."
They called for more partner SOF training, but did not appear to have crunched the number to determine if the Pentagon has enough trainers for such a mission. Dougherty said the United States should leverage -- train the foreign trainers to train the SOF forces in their own regions.
"I think we need to stop thinking about just the number of U.S. SOF," he said.
Take a look for yourself, the report is posted at CSBA's website.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly attributed the Rosetta Stone and diversity quotes to Dougherty. They came from Thomas.
DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau, U.S. Navy
The top two Democratic and Republican senators on national security issued a new bipartisan plea for President Barack Obama to lead a military campaign against Syria, including missile strikes and arming opposition rebels, in pointed floor speeches.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took the floor with a long list of limited U.S. military interjections into the conflict. They argued such moves were not only possible, but necessary to save lives and prevent spillover instability in the Middle East.
The two men wrote Obama in March calling for intervention, but Thursday's speeches come with specific military options and far more bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for a stronger response to Bashar al-Assad's regime, especially since the White House's acknowledgement in late April that the intelligence community believes chemical weapons have been used by Syria.
"No one should think that the United States has to act alone, put boots on the ground, or destroy every Syrian air defense system to make a difference for the better in Syria," McCain said. "We have more limited options at our disposal -- including limited military options -- that can make a positive impact on this crisis."
McCain said the United States should at least target Syria's ballistic missiles, preventing the possibility that they could be fitted to carry chemical weapons.
"We could use our precision strike capabilities to target Assad's aircraft and SCUD missile launchers on the ground without our pilots having to fly into the teeth of Syria's air defenses. Similar weapons could be used to selectively destroy artillery pieces and make Assad's forces think twice about remaining at their posts. We could also use Patriot missile batteries outside of Syria to help protect safe zones inside of Syria from Assad's aerial bombing and missile attacks.
"Would any of these options immediately end the conflict? Probably not. But they could save innocent lives in Syria," said McCain.
Levin said the Armed Services Committee next week is scheduled to receive a classified briefing it requested from top Pentagon brass on military options for Syria. Under Secretary of Defense Jim Miller, DOD's policy chief, and Lt. Gen. Terry Wolff, the J-5, or director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Staff, are slated to appear. The committee will, he said, "urge them to carry a message back to the administration that it is time to up the military pressure on Assad."
But the chairman did not wait to give his own suggestion.
"In my view, the facts on the ground today make the consequences of inaction too great. It is time for the United States and our allies to use ways to alter the course of events in Syria by increasing the military pressure on Assad," Levin said.
Levin asked Obama to support Turkey in creating a "safe zone" inside Syria, deploying Patriot batteries close to the border, "neutralize" any Syria threats, and arm "vetted" opposition rebels.
He also argued that military action would give Secretary of State John Kerry political "backing" to bring Russia into a solution to end the conflict, while continuing to condemn Russia for supporting Assad's regime.
Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who on Monday introduced a bill to arm the rebels, said the threat of a humanitarian crisis in Jordan -- which has seen half a million registered Syrian refugees cross its border, already -- was reason enough for prompt action. King Abdullah II of Jordan told senators during his April visit, Menendez said, that the population of Jordan already has increased by 20 percent due to Syrian inflows and he fears it could double.
"We cannot afford for that ally to ultimately find itself in a position in which it could very well collapse," Menendez said.
"I would suggest a bipartisan consensus is forming in the United State Senate that now is time to do more, not less, when it comes to Syria" said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., including arming "the right rebels, the right opposition, with the right weapons."
Graham said there is now enough bipartisan support to "turn the tide in Washington," calling the trend a "monumental sea change."
"To the opposition: this is a great day for you. To Assad: this seals your fate," Graham said.
Graham also tried to connect the Syrian conflict to the specter of Islamist-inspired bombings in the United States.
"There is enough chemical weapons in Syria to kill thousands if not millions of Americans and people who are our allies," said Graham, noting that he's worried Syrian chemical weapons could end up being used inside the United States.
"The next bomb that goes off in America may have more than nails and glass in it."
MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
As the United States was deploying destroyers, stealth bombers, and missile defense batteries around the Pacific last month as a show of force against North Korea's nuclear provocations, the Pentagon's top leaders said they had little interaction with China, alarming some senators.
But under the radar, U.S. defense and military officials were confident that Beijing understood Washington's intentions, having steadily increased the stream of communications and contact with the People's Liberation Army over the past few years. For the Pentagon's top China policy official, the trend is promising enough to leave him with a "realistic" sense that a page may have been turned and after years of fits and starts, military-to-military relations between Beijing and Washington may be reaching an even keel.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey sat with the E-Ring on Wednesday for a rare on-the-record interview about the state of relations between the Pentagon and the PLA, and their joint role in managing the North Korean nuclear standoff of the past two months.
In March, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel used a "hotline" phone to call China's new minister of national defense, Gen. Chang Wanquan, for a 45-minute introductory conversation in which they discussed a range of issues. Hagel, according to Pentagon press secretary George Little, encouraged they keep an open dialogue about North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Helvey said they also discussed other issues. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey also used the hotline to call China's chief of the General Staff, Gen. Fang Fenghui, prior to his own visit.
"We're really looking to expand the use of this hotline just as a mechanism for direct communication between our senior leaders," Helvey said.
A strong sign of the relationship's health has been China's receptiveness to talk at all, he said.
"The Chinese have shown a willingness to discuss North Korea with us. They've taken some steps to cooperate with the international community," said Helvey, especially at the United Nations Security Council.
"These are real opportunities and interactions."
But by design, he said, during the North Korean tension most U.S. interaction with China occurred through diplomatic channels, not the Pentagon.
"Quite frankly, the military aspects of this is not something that we wanted to highlight," Helvey said.
"We had communications certainly at my level," he explained. Helvey's job was to convey the administration's message from the Pentagon to the PLA through the Chinese defense attaché in Washington.
"Part of what we try to do in our military channels in situations like that is to make sure we're providing the same type of message that's occurring through the diplomatic channels, so that we're presenting a unified view to the Chinese," he said, "so the military understands the same thing that the Foreign Ministry is getting."
Helvey, in return, took the People's Liberation Army's view back to Hagel at the Pentagon.
At the time, Pacific Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear raised alarms when he told the Senate Armed Service Committee he had not been on the phone with the PLA Navy to manage tensions. Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, both pressed Locklear to reach out and touch someone in China.
"We're not there yet," Locklear said, at the time.
"Quite frankly it is a challenge in the relationship," Helvey said, "because our military and the Chinese military are structured somewhat differently." The PACOM commander doesn't have a direct counterpart in China, though he explained how top brass have found their way into the PLA.
"The Chinese war-fighting commands, if you were to call it that, are reflected along military regions which are organized along interior lines. So it doesn't go outside of China," he explained. Most militaries, in fact, do not have officers directly comparable to U.S. combatant commanders, who command troops deployed over vast regions of the globe.
Instead, the United States has tried to engage with several parts of the PLA in lieu of "a direct fit" by talking to regional commanders, sending Locklear and others to participate in strategic and economic dialogues, visiting Beijing, and calling on senior Chinese officers.
Since Beijing temporarily cut communications with the Pentagon during 2010, the United States and China's militaries have maintained contacts via several appointments. In 2012, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and Adm. Locklear all visited China. Beijing sent their defense minister and a high-level uniformed deputy of strategy to Washington.
Below that senior level, at least 20 exchanges, meetings, and joint exercises occurred between U.S. and PLA military and defense officials -- events that included policy talks, the convening of a maritime working group, and even a meeting between the Pentagon's office for missing POWs and PLA archivists. National Defense University and the PLA's equivalent continued their exchanges and the National War College sent a delegation to China.
Dempsey visited China last month, and later this year Gen. Ray Odernio, Army chief of staff, and Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff, have scheduled China trips. On the docket are port visits, exchanges of military legal teams, a disaster management exercise, and more academic exchanges.
This summer, Under Secretary of Defense Jim Miller, the policy chief, will attend another round of annual consultative talks.
Outside of the bilateral relationship, Helvey said the Pentagon continues to encourage China to participate more in multilateral venues, "to become part of the international system, part of the international framework that supports stability, peace, prosperity."
"I think it's been incremental," Helvey said. "It's something that I think we're going to have to continue working."
But he sees opportunity in the PLA's own global plans. PLA leaders have tasked its force to go beyond regional missions, Helvey notes (as does the Pentagon's latest China power report, released last week), from counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden to evacuating civilians in Libya. China now deploys more U.N. peacekeeping troops than any other permanent Security Council member.
"From our perspective, if China's going to be out there using its military forces -- deploying them farther and farther away from China -- to the extent that we can encourage them to cooperate with the international community, I think that helps to bring us toward that positive outcome in the relationship that we seek."
"We want to be able to develop a positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship with China. There's a role for having a healthy, stable, reliable military-to-military relationship, and that's what we want to do," he said.
Still, there are skeptics who remain less than eager to lock arms with the PLA. Just last year, China often was painted as a rival, even an enemy, in a heated presidential campaign. But Helvey persists.
"The U.S.-China relationship is complex," he said. "It is very complex, but a critically important relationship. I think the military-to-military relationship has improved, but I think we have very real expectations of what we can get out of it."
Friction is, he said, "inevitable."
"The relationship now is probably as good as it's been in recent memory."
The goal remains to be able to weather those storms without another military-to-military blackout.
"We have realistic expectations."
DOD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler
Fifty million dollars in stolen U.S. funds that investigators had located in an Afghan bank account last year have suddenly gone missing while under the Afghan government's watch, according to a top federal watchdog.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko made the stunning revelation in a scathing speech accusing the Afghan government of being a "criminal patronage network" from civil servant to the highest officials. Sopko, warning of an inept oversight of American taxpayer funds, claimed on Wednesday that the millions went missing after his office served the Afghan government an order to freeze the account.
"Briefly put, we identified roughly $50 million stolen from the U.S. government which was sitting in an Afghan bank account," Sopko said, in prepared remarks of a speech delivered at the New America Foundation.
"We obtained a court order here in the United States and served it on the Afghan government to get them to seize the money. For months we pressed the Afghan attorney general's office to freeze the account and begin the legal process to allow us to seize the cash. At first, we were told the bank account was frozen and the money protected. Unfortunately, as is too many times the case, a few weeks ago we learned that the money was mysteriously unfrozen by some powerful bureaucrat in Kabul. Now, most of it is gone."
Spoko, in his speech, said the case was one of many examples of why it was time for the U.S. to consider withholding vital aid to Afghanistan in order to pressure Kabul into adopting stronger financial protections.
Philip LaVelle, spokesman for the SIGAR, said Sopko first revealed that the funds were missing during questioning before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on April 10. But the case went unreported in the media as it was one of several examples of Afghan corruption and mismanagement Sopko mentioned that day. SIGAR had not publicized the case further because it remains sealed by a federal U.S. judge, according to LaVelle.
Sopko only referenced it again on Wednesday, but in last month's exchange with House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., made clear his sense of being hoodwinked.
"It was supposed to be frozen. For six months, we've been negotiating with the attorney general's office in Afghanistan. And, lo and behold, last weekend, mysteriously, the money was unfrozen and it's gone.
"This, I fear, is the future in Afghanistan."
Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
The U.S. government's watchdog over taxpayer money in Afghanistan today will deliver a clear and sobering message: if Kabul is unable to do a better job safeguarding and spending the billions in U.S. funding coming its way, Washington should shut its wallet.
"We need to have the courage to withhold funding if progress is not made by the Afghan government," Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko will say in a speech he is scheduled to deliver at the New America Foundation on Wednesday, according to an advance copy provided exclusively to the E-Ring.
Sopko since last summer has turned in a steady stream of reports finding millions of dollars from the Defense Department, State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development going to waste. The offenses range from poorly designed and managed reconstruction projects on the U.S side to lax oversight by Afghan government offices. In the SIGAR's latest quarterly report to Congress, Sopko trains his sights on direct foreign assistance delivered through USAID, and questions the Afghan government's ability to maintain safeguards over the cash influx.
"And, more importantly, USAID must be willing to stop funding Afghan ministries if they do not live up to these safeguards," Sopko will say.
UPDATE: SIGAR Going After ANSF
Sopko also announced in his speech that the SIGAR for the rest of this year will focus its auditing power on measuring the state of security in Afghanistan. That mission may seem far afield from usual inspector general bean counting. But the effectiveness of any U.S. funding is dependent, Sopko said, on the U.S. effort to stand up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
"Because of SIGAR's ongoing concerns with the ANSF," he said, "SIGAR is building a body of work to eventually answer the ultimate question - are the Afghan National Security Forces ready?"
The E-Ring reported last week that SIGAR found the ANSF was 20,000 people short of its personnel goals. "The number of troops ready for duty is even lower when you consider AWOL employees, desertions, and ghost employees," Sopko said on Wednesday.
But those numbers are a guess, at best, due to poor recordkeeping, which means the true U.S. cost for supplying, training, and maintaining Afghan forces is unknown.
"The DOD told SIGAR there is no way to validate the ANSF's personnel numbers," he said, "often derived from reports prepared by hand by Afghan troops. It is hard to know if the afghan army and police are ready if we don't know how many troops are available to fight insurgent forces."
Sopko also warned that next year's parliamentary elections may prove to be no more legitimate that the last round, which was marred by fraud. Afghans have not changed their elections laws, leaving the process open to continued voter fraud, ballot box stuffing and fake voter identification cards, he alleged.
"Unless we fix problems like these before the 2014 presidential election, the Afghan people may have powerful reasons to question the results."
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
Tomahawk cruise missiles, fighter jets, aerial refueling tankers, flying hours -- the taxpayer cost for creating and holding a no-fly zone over Syria seems like an expensive operation, right?
Not so fast. According to defense budget analysts, creating a no-fly zone over Syria may be far easier -- and cheaper, as military operations go -- than top brass are letting on.
There are several factors that contribute to the cost of a no-fly zone, but in short it all depends on just how far the United States and its allies are willing to take it. The size and duration of the operation are top factors. But there's more than one way to keep Syria's Air Force out of the skies.
"I get why people get so amped up about no-fly zones" said Christopher Harmer, senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. People often tend to think of Iraq, he told the E-Ring, and the 12 year-long complex, high-demand Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch. Those missions cost an estimated $1 billion per year, combined.
But that was a "full" no-fly zone controlling a large adversarial territory. It would take far less to protect the smaller skies over Syria, which maintains far less air power, defense analysts believe.
"Is the goal to establish a classic no-fly zone, or is the goal to ground the Syrian Air Force?" Harmer said. "Establishing a classic no-fly zone is time consuming and costly; grounding the Syrian Air Force is as simple as sending a few cruisers and destroyers from Norfolk over to the Eastern Med and dropping 250 (Tomahawk) TLAM into Syria."
"That ends the Syrian Air Force in less than an hour."
The actual attack may take a bit longer, like the assault on Libya's air defenses, but still fares better than a sustained no-fly zone.
"Tomahawk TLAM cruise missiles can easily degrade the very limited Syrian Air Force down to almost nonexistence," Harmer contends. "We launch TLAM at the runways, radars, fuel farms, and aircraft themselves, and without U.S. aircraft getting anywhere near the Syrian airspace, we effectively create a no-fly zone -- not by enforcement, but by eliminating the Syrian Air Force."
Let's start some rough calculations here. TLAMs go for an estimated $1.41 million each, so that brings the tab to $352.5 million, just for the hardware. Then there's the cost of the naval vessels and thousands of personnel manning them required to support the mission that otherwise may not be deployed in the area.
So far, that's not bad compared to other U.S. military missions. Consider that the Pentagon in fiscal year 2012 spent $10 billion per month in Afghanistan and once estimated that each soldier in the war zone cost $1 million per year.
Syria is believed to have, Harmer explained in an email, "less than 100 flyable fixed wing aircraft [and] probably closer to 50 at this point. For all practical purposes, they are not flying their MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-29 and SU-22/SU-24 aircraft at all. Why not? Because those aircraft require a lot of spare parts, a lot of maintenance, a lot of jet fuel."
The bulk of the Syrian Air Force's quality fighters are old -- about 30 years -- and expensive to fly. The degraded Syrian regime, Harner claimed, "just does not have the logistics, the talent, the manpower to keep them flyable."
"What they are flying are L-39 trainer aircraft which are lighter, less maintenance intensive, newer, but nowhere near as capable as the MiG and SU aircraft. All we really need to do to get a de facto no-fly zone is to destroy those aircraft," he argued.
That's one option.
But let's assume the United States insists on the more robust option of maintaining an actual no-fly zone over Syria. In Iraq, for example, the U.S. much of the air force intact on the ground opting to patrol the skies. How much would that cost?
According to Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), it depends first on the size of the zone one's patrolling.
"The larger the area you cover," said Harrison, "the more aircraft you have to have covering it at any given moment. And the amount of time you have aircraft in the air patrolling are driving the cost."
Flight hours, he said, drive the cost "more than anything."
The no-fly zones over Iraq covered 104,600 square miles. And in addition to the size of the zone, Harrison calculated the distance U.S. fighters flew from regional bases. The northern watch operated out of Turkey; the southern leg out of Saudi Arabia. But the bigger cost factor there was the time spent in the air on patrol rather than flying time from the bases to the zones, he said.
In Iraq, the per-flight hour cost was tied to operational tempo -- the number and pace of sorties, which require fuel and manpower. The price ranged from roughly $7,000 per square mile in the less active years to $23,000 when sorties were at their highest.
One way to limit that cost is to shrink the zone, or to keep aircraft out of the zone but defend it from afar using standoff weapons that can shoot down intruders.
"It's a matter of do you want to control the airspace or deny them use of the air space. Control versus denial is the first question," he said. "Denial is easier and less and expensive. Control requires more resources."
Additionally, the number of allies and partner forces that join in the operation would drive down costs to U.S. taxpayers.
Harrison said that CSBA's extensive cost prediction for a no-fly zone over Libya gives some insight into what a Syrian mission would cost. CSBA calculated in March 2011 that a "limited no-fly zone" just for the 230,000 square miles of populated Libyan territory north of the 29th parallel would cost $30 million to $100 million per week, or for over six months, roughly $1billion to $3.5 billion.
But CSBA's prediction turned out to be two-thirds more expensive than the actual cost of the mission to the U.S. because two-third of the sorties ended up being flown by foreign aircraft -- yet another factor to consider.
By far, cruise missiles account for a large chunk of the total cost of any no-fly zone, no matter what comes next.
"A substantial cost of [the Libya] operation was incurred in the first week of that campaign," he said. There, on March 19, 2011, the United States began with bombs dropped from B-2 bombers flown from Missouri and launched 200 Tomahwawk cruise missiles.
So, on the back of the E-Ring's monogrammed napkin, we find that all of Syria is about 71,000 square miles, or 31 percent the size of the Libyan no-fly zone. That puts the cost to sustain a no-fly zone over all of Syria at about $9 million to $31 million per week.
But it's likely that the United States and its allies would only need to patrol a much small areas, so the cost should be even less.
"There isn't an easy -- or single -- answer," said Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Col. David Lapan, who added to the list of considerations the types of aircraft used, the amount of intelligence required, and Syria's response.
"And it's not about cost," he said. "It's about military objectives and decisions on options."
Photo by ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Kevin Baron reports on the people and policies driving the Pentagon and the national security establishment in The E-Ring.