On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there's "no doubt" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the recent chemical gas attack in his country, and promised that the United States would deliver a "serious response" to the regime. Later that day, the U.S. military launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base, leading many to wonder if the United States will send ground troops to Syria as well.
The only one who knows the answer to that is President Trump, of course. However, there's good reason to believe that ground troops are at least on the table — but that's not necessarily because of the gas attack.
On Tuesday, a gas attack in northern Syria killed at least 70 people and injured at least 557 others, according to Al-Jazeera. In response, Trump said, "What Assad did is terrible," and added, "I guess he’s running things, so something should happen." It's unclear what he meant by that.
Earlier Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump was "presented with a lot of options"; according to the New York Times, those options ranged from a lone cruise missile strike aimed at a single Syrian military installation to a "multiday offensive that could involve the use of American warplanes against a range of targets." The BBC had reported that there is "an awful lot of chatter" at the Pentagon that America will take some form of military action against Syria, and that it could do so imminently.
The Tomahawk missile strikes came not long after.
BBC reporting “chatter” of imminent US military strike on Syria, "possibly as soon as tonight” pic.twitter.com/CIy0n0UBBv— Jon Passantino (@passantino) April 6, 2017
Still, the question remains: Will military action include putting boots on the ground? So far, there have been no reports to suggest that, although this, of course, doesn't meant that the possibility of a ground invasion is off the table.
It's important to note, however, that the United States already has ground troops operating in Syria. Around 500 Special Operations forces are currently in the country, as well as 250 Army Rangers and 200 Marines. Furthermore, the Washington Post reported on March 15 that the United States was already considering sending 1,000 additional troops within several weeks.
When President Obama was considering military action in Syria in 2013, Trump said that "The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria," and that it would be a "big mistake if he does not!" It's unclear whether Trump received congressional approval for the missiles that were launched in Syria, or whether he'll seek it if he decides to send troops there as well.