President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his use of the phrase "Mission Accomplished" to describe a USA -led missile attack on Syria's chemical weapons program, even as his aides stressed continuing US troop involvement and plans for new economic sanctions against Russian Federation for enabling the government of Bashar Assad. The U.S. says it suspects that sarin gas also was used.
Although officials said the singular target was Assad's chemical weapons capability, his air force, including helicopters he allegedly has used to drop chemical weapons on civilians, were spared. In a US military action a year ago in response to a sarin gas attack, missiles took out almost 20 percent of the Syrian air force, the Pentagon said.
"We, of course, know our work in Syria is not done", U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on "Fox News Sunday".
Trump has made clear he wants to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops in Syria involved in the anti-Islamic State campaign, and his administration has suspended support for Syrian rebels, evidence of his desire to disengage from Syria. The words, which likely left many people in the US government, congress, intelligence services and military with their heads in their hands, is ambiguous in every aspect: what was the "mission", and what does it mean for it to be "accomplished"?
A US official said that while top aides such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had persuaded Trump to avoid the tougher action the president initially wanted, arguing that that would have risked escalation with Assad ally Russian Federation, the administration is no closer to crafting a comprehensive strategy on the war in Syria.
"If Assad doesn't get it, it's going to hurt".
When pressed, he acknowledged that some unspecified portion of Assad's chemical arms infrastructure was not targeted.
"I'm not going to say that they're going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future, but I suspect that they'll think long and hard about it based on the activities of last night", the lieutenant general said. "It does not exist anymore".
The strike on Syria does not represent a change in US policy in Syria, senior administration officials revealed Saturday. He said the strikes were unlikely to curb the government's ability to produce or launch new attacks.More news: Trudeau vows financial backing, legislation to save Trans Mountain pipeline
Disputing the Russian military's contention that Syrian air defence units downed 71 allied missiles, McKenzie said no USA or allies missiles were stopped.
The alleged gas attack killed more than 40 people, according to opposition activists and rescuers.
"The Geneva Process hasn't worked and it's time to find something new or change it", said one USA official.
McKenzie said 105 U.S. and allied missiles were fired, of which 66 were Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from aboard three U.S. Navy ships and one Navy submarine.
Russian Federation called an emergency meeting of the United Nation's Security Council to introduce a resolution condemning the "aggression" of the joint strike from U.S., British and French forces.
A global chemical warfare watchdog group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said its fact-finding mission would go on as planned in Douma.
British Foreign Secretary (Minister) Boris Johnson defended Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to take part in the attack, saying it was to deter further use of chemical weapons.
He added that he knew the media would "seize" on the phrase, but said it should be used often.