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U.S. Boots on the Ground for Removing Syria's Chemical Weapons? Here's Jay Carney's Carefully Crafted Answer

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"We do not envision boots on the ground. That is our policy and we are not participating in the Syrian civil war."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gestures as he speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept., 11, 2013. The Obama administration doesn't have a firm timeline in mind as it begins negotiations with Russia about a potential agreement to remove chemical weapons from the possession of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. Carney said, "I suspect this will take some time," hinting that the window of opportunity would be determined based on the progress of talks. Talks would likely continue if there was "a demonstration of sincerity and a verifiable way to secure the weapons." But the timeline is likely limited. It's "certainly not the case that were are interested in delay or avoidance of accountability here," Carney said. Credit: AP

White House spokesman Jay Carney could not answer directly whether confiscating the Assad regime's chemical weapons arsenal would involve U.S. military ground troops in a non-combat role, but again stressed the often-repeated administration assertion of “no boots on the ground” for the Syrian civil war, adding I don't pretend to know all of the parameters of what that would look like."

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 09: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions from reporters during the daily press briefing at the White House September 9, 2013 in Washington, DC. Credit: Getty Images

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama made a prime-time national address announcing a diplomatic response to Syria's chemical weapons attack last month that killed 1,429 people in the country. The solution involving the U.S., Russian and Syrian governments would put Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal under international control – and avoid a U.S. air strike.

A reporter asked Carney: “The president's promise last night there would be no boots on the ground attached to military action -- will there be no American boots on the ground attached to an effort to confiscate chemical weapons? Does it apply to that as well? No American boots on the ground in Syria whatsoever?”

Carney answered carefully.

“We do not envision boots on the ground,” Carney said. “That is our policy and we are not participating in the Syrian civil war. We are providing support to the Syrian military opposition and to the Syrian people.”

“The process by which chemical weapons would be identified, verified, secured and removed from Assad's control will be discussed in Geneva and I'm sure in New York and I don't pretend to know all of the parameters of what that would look like,” Carney continued. “Going to Syria's commitment here require Syria's acceptance of the fact that it is giving up its chemical weapons. That would require cooperation from Syria.”

"So no boots on the ground, at this time it's too early to dictate whether that would mean any U.S. involvement in – ” the reporter pressed.

Carney interjected, “There are going to be no boots on the ground involved in Syria's civil war. The president could not have been clearer about that on many occasions.”

During the primetime address, Obama said, "I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad’s capabilities."

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