The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Mahan, has sailed from the Mediterranean Sea to the eastern Atlantic Ocean, where it could still respond to a potential military strike on Syria, the service's top officer said.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is staying within the service's 6th Fleet area of operations to "be made available, if necessary," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said today during a briefing at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. The fleet "will determine what to do with her," he added.
Previous reports indicated the ship, which can carry as many as 90 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, or TLAMs, was en route to her home port of Naval Station Norfolk, Va., after an extended deployment to the region.
Obama administration officials are pressing lawmakers to support a limited air campaign against Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians. U.S. intelligence has determined the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed at least 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, in an Aug. 21 sarin gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus.
Despite overwhelming public opposition to U.S. involvement in Syria, a Senate panel yesterday voted 10–7 in support of a resolution authorizing the use of military force in the country. The full Senate and the House may decide on the measure next week.
The resolution would set a 60-day deadline for military action, with an optional a 30-day extension, and bar the deployment of ground troops to the country, or “boots on the ground.” The language must still be approved by the full Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Navy has positioned four destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, including the USS Stout, USS Ramage, USS Barry and USS Gravely. The amphibious assault ship, USS San Antonio, is also in the Med on routine port visit to Haifa, Israel, according to a Defense Department official who asked to remain anonymous to freely discuss ship locations.
The Nimitz carrier strike group is also in the Red Sea. In addition to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, which holds some 80 aircraft, the strike group includes three destroyers, the USS William P. Lawrence, the USS Stockdale and the USS Shoup, as well as the cruiser USS Princeton.
None of the vessels has been tasked yet to support contingency operations in Syria, the official said.
Military.com reporter Richard Sisk contributed to this report.